A large blaze which destroyed a Te Puke home has left both the well-known local family who lived there and the community reeling.
The cause of the Harris St fire, which partially burned through the front shed before it spread into the home and adjacent caravan yesterday afternoon, was unknown last night.
The 75-year-old property owner had been attending a relative's funeral at a local marae when the fire started, his daughter said.
Emergency services were alerted to the fire at 3.24pm and the daughter, who did not wish to be named, said she found out about the blaze after her cousin phoned her at 3.38pm.
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"The fire brigade was already here and the property was cordoned off when I arrived. It's absolutely shocking and devastating for my dad - and my brother and my nephew who also lived at the property and were also not at home," she said.
At least 15 firefighters were involved in fighting the fire, and several police officers also attended and assisted with crowd control.
Most people in the area know the owner. He has lived here for years. It's really sad and unfortunate this has happened to him. I really feel for him.
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Neighbours Deb and Kevin Allen along with their son and two dogs fled their house after clouds of smoke billowed across their property.
Mrs Allen said she had just returned from collecting her son Riley from daycare when she smelled burning and then saw huge flames and smoke pouring from the home.
"Most people in the area know the owner. He has lived here for years. It's really sad and unfortunate this has happened to him. I really feel for him.
"Luckily no one was hurt."
Close neighbour Marilyn Pinkerton, whose husband Brian is a volunteer firefighter, said she had known the man for 39 years.
"It's a hell of a terrible thing to have happened ... " she said.
Te Puke Deputy Fire Chief Dale Lindsay said exploding LPG cylinders in the front shed meant it was too risky for firefighters to enter the property.
Mr Lindsay said the fire was "pretty much out" by 5pm but firefighters expected to remain at the property for at least another two hours to dampen down hot spots.
"We're having to take extreme care because of our concerns about the integrity of the roof ceiling and the basement below. There are pockets of flames beneath the debris, so it's like having to tread on egg shells as we don't know the cause of the fire, and there is the potential risk that these structures will collapse beneath or on top of us," he said.
"It really hits me when I see a structure fire like this, particularly when someone has lost pretty much all their possessions."
Mr Lindsay said it was yet to be determined where the fire had started.
Te Puke ward councillor Karyl Gunn-Thomas, who lives nearby, said she had come down to offer her support to the family and make sure they had somewhere to stay.
Bystander Brendan Pratt said he was disgusted by all the "rubber-neckers" in vehicles who had parked up and restricted the fire trucks' access to the scene.
The fire safety investigator would be looking into the cause of the fire once the brigade was satisfied it was safe to do so.