It’s been roughly two years since a chimney fire damaged the Shivas family home in Carterton, and although the re-build is still ongoing, Sandie Shivas says that’s to the credit of FMG who has been there from the beginning and wanted to do things thoroughly.

In June 2019, a fire gutted the sewing room of their two-storey house, and while the fire emergency response saved their home, the majority of the house and its contents were either smoke or water damaged.

Sandie says she was at home when the fire started, but it wasn’t until her husband Steve came home earlier than expected and raised the alarm that she realised what was happening.

“He came in asking why no one was panicking and I couldn’t understand it. The kids were cooking dinner and I was in the office thinking it’s going to take an hour to get this smoke out of the house.”

Steve ran upstairs and saw that flames had started to take hold, so told the family to evacuate and he got on the phone to the fire brigade.

From putting them in touch with the right assessors, architects and other providers, through to settling the claim well, FMG has done a great job, she says.

“I say to people again and again how good FMG has been. It’s taken this amount of time because the job has been done thoroughly.”

This included receiving a $5,000 emergency advance payment on their Household Contents policy to buy basics like clothes, which was a relief and a good sign at the beginning of a very lengthy claims process, she says.

FMG’s Household Contents policy’s $5,000 emergency advance means if all your contents are destroyed, FMG provides an advance of $5,000 within 48 hours of accepting your claim, which will be deducted from your total claim settlement.

“It just gave us reassurance that FMG was on our side and it was not going to be a battle. Having that understanding all the way through that FMG were trying the best for us… it took about 80% of the stress off it [the situation].”

Talking through fire safety with your family is worth it.

Sandie says while they had working smoke alarms installed in their house, she had taken them down recently because some needed new batteries and hadn’t got around to reinstalling them.

She says it was a good reminder that fire safety requires “action as well as intention”.

Five out of their nine children were living at home at the time of the fire, and Sandie says she was pleasantly surprised that they had all remembered the fire safety plan and evacuated quickly to her parents’ home across the lawn.

“I was really impressed that the children remembered what to do. It’s one of the things we’ve said to them over the years, but you never know if it’s sunk in because it doesn’t come up that often and you’re never really sure if they have listened or not.”

Every year around 150 FMG clients experience a damaging house fire. Manager Advice Services Stephen Cantwell says winter is when we see peak house fire claims due to more wood burners, fireplaces, and electric heaters being used.

“These fires are often traumatic events – a home is so much more than just walls and a roof. Before winter sets in there are a number of checks you can do and actions you can take to avoid a fire from starting”.

FMG’s advice is:

Check your smoke alarms
While you’re asleep you lose your sense of smell. That’s why a fire alarm is so important for keeping you and your family safe. Press the button and check it’s working.

Check electrical wiring, switchboards, and appliances
Significant fires can start behind appliances. It’s a good idea to check the cords, plugs and sockets of large appliances like dishwashers, ovens and fridges. We also suggest checking smaller appliances like electric blankets, heaters, irons and toasters.

Find out more
To learn more about the causes of house fires and advice on how to reduce fire risks, check out our House Fires Advice Guide on our website or head to Fire and Emergency New Zealand's website.

For more advice on protecting your home head to