The staff of a Northland drug and alcohol treatment service are devastated after a fire razed their rehabilitation centre - but they're hugely grateful no one was inside at the time.
Ngati Hine Health Trust was yesterday looking for alternative accommodation for the men who were undergoing treatment, and has vowed to get the "desperately needed" service back up and running as soon as possible.
The alarm was raised about 12.30pm yesterday at Te Hurihanga, a residential facility on State Highway 1 just north of Ohaeawai.
Okaihau Fire Brigade was first on the scene, fire chief Andrew Graham saying the volunteers could see the column of thick black smoke from Okaihau, 8km away. When they arrived the building was burning fiercely and the roof had collapsed.
While police ascertained no one was inside - the last person left about 11am - firefighters saved an adjoining garage and a staff member's four-wheel-drive. The garage roof had started melting and the vehicle's paintwork had started blistering.
The fire was contained within five minutes and knocked down within an hour, Mr Graham said.
The cause was not yet known - the investigation was still under way at edition time yesterday - but arson had been ruled out.
The centre is run by the Ngati Hine Health Trust and takes referrals from the Northland District Health Board. It can take up to seven men at a time for an intensive six-week programme.
Kaiarahi (service manager) Segina Te Ahuahu said the facility had been in use for almost 15 years and had had a positive effect on many Northland families.
"We're devastated by the loss of this house. A lot of healing has happened here."
The men were at another site at the time undergoing therapy and anger management courses. She was on her way yesterday to tell them in person what had happened.
Ngati Hine Health Trust chairwoman Gwen Te Pania-Palmer said it was "very fortunate" no one was at the centre at the time.
One programme had just ended so only three men had been staying. Staff were yesterday looking for alternative accommodation and buying basic supplies for them.
The men, who were aged in their 30s to 50s, had lost everything they brought with them. Some clients brought everything they owned, she said.
"Some will have lost their treasures, but we're thankful they are safe."
Four more men were due to start on Monday. The trust would ask the health board for a short deferral, but it was committed to getting the service back up and running as soon as possible.
"There's a desperate need for residential treatment in Northland. If we don't have it here, people will get shipped to Auckland," she said.
The trust would consider whether to rebuild. The building was insured and the trust owned the land.
Trust staff, the three men, and women staying in a similar rehabilitation centre in Kaikohe were due to visit the site this morning for a blessing.
Mrs Pania-Palmer said the trust was grateful to the Fire Service which had responded quickly, along with police and an iwi liaison officer, and been supportive even as they were fighting the fire.
The Okaihau fire crew included two 16-year-old recruits from Okaihau College. They were assisted by a crew from Kaikohe and a tanker from Kerikeri.