A young man ran into a burning home to save an injured puppy as flames tore through the family cottage.
The fire, which destroyed the single-storey one-bedroom home on Showground Rd, started on Saturday evening.
Maea Worters, 18, and her boyfriend Allies Wineera, 19 were among the first at the scene.
I was yelling and screaming 'quick, quick, the house is on fire come and help us', but I don't know whether many of our neighbours heard me.
Ms Worters' uncle Ngawhika Te Aute, 39, lived at the property with his partner but were not home when the fire took hold.
"I was yelling and screaming 'quick, quick, the house is on fire come and help us', but I don't know whether many of our neighbours heard me.
"I could hear lots of loud popping sounds, and we just had to stand there in the end and watch the house burn," Ms Worters said.
Mr Wineera rushed inside the burning house to save an injured puppy and anything else he could grab, she said.
He knew the puppy which had an injured leg after it was run over by a car, was somewhere in the kitchen.
"It was pretty scary, but I was determined to save the pup and would have gone back inside to grab some other stuff but the house filled up with thick black smoke."
Another family member managed to save the TV and a couple of photos, but Mr Te Aute and his partner lost the rest of their possessions, she said,
Mr Te Aute and his partner had been out shopping for some new clothes when the Bay of Plenty Times visited the property yesterday and were too upset to talk.
A close neighbour has offered the couple a place to sleep until they make some decisions.
Another neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said he had known Mr Te Aute for more than 20 years, and rushed help him but it was too late.
Lots of great fond memories have gone up in flames.
"All credit to the Maketu firefighters who were first on the scene, as they did their very best to save the house but there was little that could be done.
"I really feel for Ngawhika and will do anything I can to help him, " the man said.
Mr Te Aute's mother, Charleen Worters, said the cottage had been owned by the family for more than three decades.
"Lots of great fond memories have gone up in flames," she said.
Family members had tried to comfort her shocked and devastated son when he saw the gutted house, but he was so broken up he struggled to even talk about the fire, she said.
The loss of the homestead had left a "significant hole" in their lives and brought back so many memories of her father and other whanau no longer with them, she said.
Tauranga fire investigator Jon Rewi said earlier in the day there had been a small fire near the garage and someone had attempted to put it out with a jug of water before the couple left to go to work.
"Unfortunately it wasn't completely out and the smouldering fire grew into something more substantial, and when fire crews arrived the house was well involved," he said.
The fire was being treated as accidental.
There were no smoke alarms at the uninsured property, he said
Mr Rewi said the key message here was to always ring 111 in the event of any fire, and ensure all properties were fitted with smoke alarms.
"Some people think they are being a big nuisance or it will cost them a lot if the fire service attends, which is incorrect. No one is being a nuisance, that's what we're here for."
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