Ray Jaggard was one day into his holiday at Ninety Mile Beach when his fire brigade pager went off at 3 in the morning.

It wasn't long before the volunteer firefighter knew what the job was.

Chef's Kitchen, the bakery he had taken ownership of just two days earlier, was being ravaged by flames. The fire has been labelled suspicious and an investigator is looking into what caused it.

Jaggard had to cancel his holiday and make his way back to Whanganui. He said it was unusual to be directly involved in a fire job.


"I'm in the fire service and I'm a volunteer of the fire service in Whanganui so ... my pager went off while I was in Ahipara at the bottom of Ninety Mile Beach. I knew about it as soon as the pager went off at 3 o'clock this morning.

"I'm not going to speculate ... until I see the report then I can't really make too much comment."

He said he'd be disappointed if it was arson.

'I'm very disppoined if there are individuals out there that have decided to do that."

He took ownership of it on Christmas Eve and had planned to refurbish it from Chef's Kitchen to an extension of Fitzies Bakery and Cafe in Springvale, which he also owns.

He said he and the building owner had all of the necessary insurance and was philosophical about the damage.

"[I'm] really more upset about it having to ruin my holiday to be honest. Buildings can be repaired, things can be replaced, people can't be. Nobody's injured that's the main thing.

"It's upsetting but at the same time ... what can I do about it? It's happened. It's just a matter of now going through the process, gettting it sorted and get it rebuilt and opened."


Jaggard was thankful to messages of support he had received by people and for the "fantastic communication" of the fire service and police.

One of the neighbours who called the fire service, Stu Welton, lives in the house directly behind the shop and said he had heard suspicious sounds throughout the night.

"I had just got out to go to the bathroom ... I had heard this banging in the background and we get a lot of teenagers coming [through] here half-pissed at night," he said.

"They hang around kicking signs and all that sort of thing. I just sort of put it down as that. It sounded sort of muffled explosions or somebody banging the lid on the skip bin that's there."

Then he saw the flames.

"It wasn't until about probably an hour later ... when I came back I thought 'oh that's strange' and I looked out the bedroom window and I saw these flames belting out the window.

"I was straight on to the phone and rung 111 and I had a neighbour - I don't even know who he is - he was obviously from over here somewhere. He came over and told me I should get out because of the gas bottles here. I wasn't too worred about them because it is a brick building and the gas bottles are outside."

That neighbour was Brian Hill, who had also called the fire station.

"I got up to have a drink of water, looked out my window and oh, hello. When I rang I could see smoke coming out and that room over there was bright orange," Hill said talking about the bakery's office, which sits on the right of the building.

"There was a pile of smoke coming out. That room was glowing so obviously on fire. But by the time I rang them the window had blown out and everything just over the one phone call.

"I ran over to see this fella [Stu Welton], I was worried about this fella. His is behind and there's bloody gas tanks ... behind there."

Jaggard said the people worst hit by the fire would be the Chef's Kitchen staff he was hoping to employ at the refurbished Fitzies story.

"I just feel really sad for the staff that had worked at Chef's Kitchen.

"I had planned to interview them all in a couple of weeks. I can still do that. I was hoping to go for end of January but we've probably got to look no at March if not later, depending on the repair work.

"The staff that potentially could have had jobs are now going to be months without jobs, not weeks. "

The fire service had sent him pictures of the damage.