A family home was flattened by raging fire as Maraekakaho neighbours rallied to save more homes in strong winds yesterday.
Brett Sudfelt rang in late to work following a sleepless night caused by his two-week-old baby, born on Christmas Day.
As he walked down the corridor shortly before 8am he heard the sound of fire.
"Rochelle [his wife] was still in bed asleep and I was going to say goodbye and head off to work," Mr Sudfelt said.
When he went outside he found flames underneath the bedroom, fanned by strong wind.
"I got the family out and rang 111."
With his wife, baby and 3-year-old daughter safe Mr Sudfelt noticed the fire jump a shared driveway, starting a grass fire.
"I rang the farmer so he could save his paddocks."
James Foreman grabbed a stash of sacks he keeps for such an occasion.
"When you live out here it pays to always have them on hand," he said.
With daughter, Catherine, the three battled the grass fire with the wetted sacks.
Mr Foreman said the house could not be saved but they removed large gas cylinders to prevent them exploding.
Their neighbour, David Elliott, saw smoke but found flames raging twice the height of the house after he drove across the road in his ute.
He grabbed a sack and joined them.
Downwind neighbours Helen Capes and Ashley Willans said they woke to the smell of smoke and saw through thick smoke their neighbours holding the fire at bay.
"We were quite frightened," the neighbour said.
"The wind was desperate. They say about the strongest it's been around here."
The neighbour said she was thankful the group contained the blaze until the Maraekakaho fire service arrived.
Maraekakaho called for backup when the crew saw the grass fire and several fire crews from neighbouring areas responded.
Hastings fire service senior station officer Bruno Saathof said the house was fully involved upon arrival.
The grass fire threatened neighbouring houses and a stand of pines, so all efforts went into preventing the blaze from spreading.
"There was quite a breeze blowing," Mr Saathof said.
A large macrocarpa tree beside the house caught fire and was felled amid fears smouldering embers would cause further fires.
MetService forecast winds gusting to 100km/h south of Hastings.
The family are staying with relatives in Havelock North.
Through tears Mrs Sudfelt said it was a "devastating" experience.
Mr Sudfelt, a builder, said he was insured and would probably rebuild on the site, to replace the house moved onto their Aorangi Rd lifestyle block 18 months ago, but he had no idea what they would do until then.
All that remains undamaged is a clothesline, chicken coop and their daughter's paddling pool.
"The 3-year-old is fine. It hasn't really sunk in," he said.
"She thinks she is still going home at some stage."
Their cat has been spotted in the vicinity but their Chihuahua/fox terrier cross dog is missing.
A spark from a lawnmower started a small grass fire beside the house on Sunday and it is assumed a smouldering ember started the house fire.
Mr Elliott said the family were "dead bloody lucky" the fire did not take hold at night.
"Going by the speed it went up, I doubt very much they would have got out of it. They are very, very fortunate people."
Mr Saathof said Hawke's Bay is facing an increasing risk of fire.
"We are going into a period this week of high temperatures, so there is an increased risk of more fires, so people need to be extra cautious."