Dad's frantic fire dash to evacuate family

By Cassandra Mason

Wearing only shorts and shoes, Wellington father Chris Sadler had only a few minutes to get his five children - all under the age of five - out of the house early this morning as a blazing scrub fire made its way towards the family home.

Mr Sadler and his family were woken about 2am to the sound of a neighbour yelling "almost hysterically" about a scrub fire in Wellington's Happy Valley that threatened 30 houses and forced the evacuation of up to 70 residents.

One neighbour was tooting the horn, another was screaming and one woman was running up and down the street warning her sleeping neighbours of the approaching blaze, he said.

Residents flee Happy Valley scrub fire

"My first inclination was that our house was on fire, but then we went out to the back deck and the whole ridge was set alight basically.

"It was quite surreal."

Chris and his partner Bonnie realised they had a limited amount of time to get Poppy, 4, 22-month-old triplets Jesse, Jade and Fern, seven-month-old baby Tilly and the family dog out of the house to safety.

"The four-year-old ... I got her out of bed, put some pants and shoes on and she just stood in the middle of the lounge crying.

"I grabbed one of them and ran down to the car, I think I only got her half into her seat ... raced back up and then took two down at once. Then Poppy and then the baby."

Mr Sadler said he managed to get all five children and the dog into the car in the space of a few minutes.

Photos: Happy Valley scrub fire

He thought he probably had a maximum of 15 minutes to get out, given the fire was burning only a few hundred metres away.

"It was horribly close to our house," he said.

After several trips up and down the staircase, Mr Sadler only realised he wearing only shorts and shoes when neighbour offered him a jacket.

The family then high-tailed it to Bonnie's parents' place, but not before she grabbed a box of photos and the hard drive.

Once the kids were safe, Mr Sadler returned to keep an eye on the fire.

"I was most upset because my cardboard cut-out of Richie McCaw was still in the house."

Firefighters kept it at bay and the Sadler home was this morning given the all clear.

The family is at Owhiro Kindergarten - where Poppy is a student - who have been "great" setting the family up with beds and provisions, Mr Sadler said.

While the children were a bit young to fully realise the impact of what happened, they were all pretty exhausted from being up since 2am.

The family was still "a bit nervous" as they could see the fire still going, so will be spending the night at the kindergarten just to be safe, Mr Sadler said.

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