Following a hair-raising encounter, Barry and Pauline George breathe a sigh of relief, grateful they didn't leave anything to fate when they discovered they had a narrow escape from a potential disaster. The Manawatu-Rangitikei farmers have a newly built house that Barry helped build so they knew just how solid it was and how little ceiling space it had. But earlier this year they heard some scratching noises in the ceiling which left them baffled.

“We were surprised that anything could have gotten in, we tried hunting around for an entry point but everything was sealed pretty tight,” Barry says.

“So we removed some light fixtures and poked some bait in the roof hoping it would solve the problem.”

After a while, it appeared that the problem had been resolved, but a few weeks later, the scratching noises returned, leaving them puzzled about how any critter could still be gaining access.

One day, they observed the garage lights flickering, yet they were oblivious to any connection. Luckily they decided to call an electrician to investigate the issue.

“The electrician isolated the circuit and said there was something else that needed to be investigated, so started taking some of the walls in the garage down,” Barry says.

“Luckily we knew where the wires were, I didn’t realise how valuable it was at the time but when we were building the house, I took photos of the wiring before the gib went on.”

It didn’t take long for the electrician to find the culprit, a tiny, seemingly harmless mouse had chewed some wires and electrocuted itself. It was very fortunate it hadn’t started a fire.

“There were a few things in the George’s favour,” says Mark Nixon from Couchmans Electrical.

“Being such a new house, it didn’t have any build-up of easily flammable material that the dead short caused by the chewing mouse could’ve ignited.  But if there had been birds nesting nearby, for example, it could’ve been a very different story.”

“The RCD (Residual Current Device) also did what they’re designed to do, it tripped when the fault occurred, isolating the circuit.  Ultimately, it was the George’s quick response that had a huge impact, they recognised something was wrong electrically and they got an electrician in to check it out.”

After that wake-up call, they searched the house thoroughly during the day and at night, shining torches to try to see where the mouse may have gotten in. They did find a very tiny hole and plugged it up hoping they have solved the problem completely.

“I used to think Pauline was overreacting when she’d quote statistics about house fires and how easily they can occur,” Barry says.

“But even I got a fright because I can see how easily our mouse encounter could’ve ended very differently.”