CELEBRATING the New Year will only be a dream for two Labasa families after their three-bedroom houses were completely destroyed by fire this week.
National Fire Authority CEO John O'Connor said the two fire incidents were the seventh home fires reported to the NFA since December 23, compared to six for the same period last year. The figure does not include two home fires in the interior of Rakiraki and in Ba in the last week.
Mr O'Connor said his officers received an emergency call on Wednesday and responded immediately only to find a house in Namara completely destroyed.
"The house was empty when the incident happened and it is suspected that the fire was caused by nature," Mr O'Connor said. "Despite the quick response from our officers, the house was destroyed to the ground."
In a separate incident, an early morning blaze in Tuatua yesterday prompted 17 people to run for their lives when the house they were in was engulfed in flames. According to witnesses, the house which belonging to a retired schoolteacher caught fire about 5am.
Neighbour Sant Prasad, 67, said while performing his pooja (prayer) at 4.45am, he heard people screaming next door.
"When I looked outside, I saw people running for their lives as the house was on fire," he said.
"The occupants had just returned from their Christmas holidays and it's really sad that they have to embrace such a situation. For us, we are just so fortunate that the fire didn't spread to our home."
Mr O'Connor said there was an absolute need for people to be more cautious and vigilant in order to prevent fire incidents.
"This is becoming a trend in our society and we are stressing the need for people to take ownership of their properties and take good care of them," he said.