Fears that a child had been burnt alive in a garage fire caused panic for a family of five yesterday, only for the baby to later reappear unharmed with his mother.
The smoke from the Flaxmere garage blaze could be seen for kilometres as it gutted the garage. Fire crews from Napier and Hastings attended, and police and fire investigators were working at the scene yesterday to determine its cause.
A woman who identified herself only as Shannon and who lived at the property with her husband and three children, said they heard a loud bang when eating lunch at their house. They rushed outside to find the garage ablaze, but their attempts to stop it with garden hoses were useless and authorities were called.
"I was screaming on the phone, I was thinking that my nephew was in there," she said. "I'm surprised the man on the phone could understand me."
It wasn't until the fire was put out that she discovered the baby was safe. "The fire was actually out and the mother had come back [with the child]. I was still running around thinking he was dead in the shed."
As well as gutting the garage, the blaze destroyed a stereo, dryer, freezer and air compressor. She said they were not insured.
"There was a lot of stuff in the shed, but the main thing is the kids and everyone else is okay," Shannon said. "We never thought we needed insurance. It's times like these you realise you actually do. We're lucky it didn't hit our house."
Hastings Fire Service senior station officer Dennis O'Leary confirmed initial reports they received were of a house fire involving a victim. In fact, there was nobody injured apart from one person who was treated by an ambulance officer after cutting their foot attempting to put the fire out.
"It was all under control fairly quickly," Mr O'Leary said. "We extinguished it with two high-pressure hoses."
He said they were still investigating its cause.