Blaze claims family treasures

By Roger Moroney

For Alica Buxton, some of her most precious possessions were the little boxes of "firsts".

"All the kids had little boxes with their first toys, first shoes, their baby pictures," she said, adding that she figured they would be safer in the secure garage at the family's Charles St, Westshore, home if ever there was anything like a fire.

On Saturday night there was a fire and she lost her precious "firsts".

The blaze broke out in the garage - gutting it after what a fire service assessor believed may have been a wiring fault.

"We lost them but the most valuable things we've got are safe - the children," Alica said yesterday as she and husband Warren returned to see what they could recover from the fire-ravaged building.

While furniture and most items in the house were okay apart form some smoke and water damage, nothing in the garage could be saved.

Two vehicles had been inside along with boxes of stored property.

"We were planning on moving soon," Mr Buxton said. "So we had a lot of stuff packed in there."

Among the things were scooters and toys belonging to their seven children.

"I don't have a scooter any more," 9-year-old Maddison said quietly.

Three-year-old Leah was also tearful - her three-wheeler scooter, which blew bubbles, was also destroyed.

The fire broke out about 6.30pm while they were all inside having tea.

As well as the couple's and Mrs Buxton's children, Mr Buxton's three sons from a former relationship were staying for the weekend as they did every fortnight.

"The young fella said he could see bright lights outside," Mr Buxton said.

His stepson, 7-year-old Brody Hodgetts, had spotted the flashing colours and they went to investigate.

"We went out and could see the glow straight away - it was full-on."

Eleven-year-old Weston Buxton yelled for someone to call 111 and at that stage a passing motorist had already done so.

"I had the idea of grabbing the garden hose and having a go but when I saw it [the fire] I said, nah," Mr Buxton said.

"We just grabbed the children and got out of there," Mrs Buxton said, adding that by the time they got across the road the fire had jumped the metre gap to the corner of the house and quickly taken hold.

Flames got into the ceiling and spread into the laundry and kitchen.

"It was so quick."

She said yesterday that had the fire broken out five hours later when they were all in bed it could have been a tragedy.

"I hate to think what might have happened because the fire moved so fast."

However, Mr Buxton had put smoke alarms in the rented house.

Three fire appliances and a dozen crew responded and spent more than two hours at the scene.

Mrs Buxton was full of praise for them.

"They were up in the ceiling space - and they even spread sheets over the furniture to help protect it from the water."

There was considerable water and smoke damage throughout the house though.

"We're washing all our clothes and things."

The couple have insurance. Family, friends and neighbours had all pitched in to help them also.

Jeremy Bayliss, who runs the Westshore Beach Inn, had seen the fire as his premises are nearby.

He immediately went and offered the family a room, along with food and refreshments for the night.

Their landlords, who run the Westshore Corner Store about 300m away, arrived and ensured the family would be all right for food. The Buxtons have also been helped into temporary accommodation in Pandora.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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