Historic home destroyed in blaze

By Peter de Graaf

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Tane Croft-Ritete, front, with his aunty Astor Toia, left and grandfather Hamlin James Croft at the scene of the fire which destroyed Tane's future home in Motatau the night he and his mother Lottie were due to move in. Photo / John Stone
Tane Croft-Ritete, front, with his aunty Astor Toia, left and grandfather Hamlin James Croft at the scene of the fire which destroyed Tane's future home in Motatau the night he and his mother Lottie were due to move in. Photo / John Stone

A 140-year-old family homestead has burnt to the ground on the night a family member had been due to move in.

The blaze, at Maromaku, south of Kawakawa, also left a man in his 80s with burns to his chest and one arm, as well as smoke inhalation.

Neighbours raised the alarm about 9.20pm on Saturday but, by the time firefighters reached the isolated homestead on Matawaia Maromaku Rd, it had all but collapsed.

Firefighters concentrated on protecting a tool shed and the neighbouring house about 30m away, as well as stopping the blaze spreading into bush.

Kawakawa fire chief Wayne Martin said his brigade was backed up by fire crews from Kaikohe, Hikurangi and Kamo. Water was brought in by tankers and pumped from a creek about 200m from the homestead.

"When we got there the house was pretty much ready to collapse. It's such a long way out."

It is understood a woman recently returned to the area from Australia had been ready to move in that evening. Family members had been getting the old homestead ready and the woman was having dinner at someone's house when the fire started.

It is thought the injured man was trying to move LPG cylinders before the fire reached them. Some had been removed before the house was engulfed.

Station officer Alistair Leitch said the man had gone back to his home by the time the fire brigade arrived. Firefighters found him and applied first aid, then called St John Ambulance. He was back working on his farm the following day.

The cause could have been electrical, he said. Neighbours reported their lights were flickering just before they noticed the fire.

A fire investigator from Auckland examined the remains of the homestead on Sunday in a bid to pinpoint the cause.

The woman who was about to move into the homestead was too upset to talk, but a family member said the fire would hit the whole whanau hard as it was filled with memories.

She said her father, Hamlin James Croft, who was injured, had known the home since he was a young boy and her grandmother, Vera Croft, had raised many children in the home over the decades.

"The family is just so grateful that nobody was badly hurt. Dad got slightly burnt, but he's upset the house has gone," she said.

She said her father estimated the house to be between 120-140 years home and it had been in the family for a lot of that time.

- Northern Advocate

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