Putting a log on the open fire before heading out to a league dinner for the night on August 14 proved a devastating mistake for Shayde Hapi and his family.

Little did he know that his intentions to heat the house for his children would result in the family home in Ngatarawa Rd, Bridge Pa, being engulfed in flames.

When he returned a couple of hours later, "The windows were blackened and there was a bright glow inside. I could see the flames coming out and I panicked," said Mr Hapi.

The neighbours rang the fire brigade, but by the time the fire was contained, it was apparent nothing was able to be saved. "We've lost everything."


The only things they were able to salvage from the melted mess were a few souvenirs that belonged to his grandmother and a few old photos.

Mr Hapi, a special-needs worker at Flaxmere College, lived with his three sons, aged 9, 12 and 14 in the house where five generations of his family had been raised.

Though he had put a fire screen around the fireplace that night, it wasn't enough to protect the house from going up in smoke. "If there's anybody out there that has an open fire, they need to be taken away. A lot of old people still like those open fires, but they're bad news."

The house wasn't insured and Mr Hapi still lives on the property but in a house bus with his sons as they look to start over.

It's been a double blow for the family after losing their grandmother just a week before the tragedy, but he says the support from their community and the Mormon church had been humbling.

"It's sad, but I just have to move forward. I've made a promise to make it liveable again for the family to come back to and stay."

He said it was a blessing that no one was home that night and couldn't stress enough how important it was to have smoke alarms and home insurance.