Cruel, impersonal and indiscriminate - fire knows no bounds and has no manners. It licks anything in its reach, and heartlessly takes from people.

In a matter of minutes, it can change lives forever.

This week's fires were full of human stories; some lucky, and some not so fortunate.

Doug Lowe was the man who dialled 111 when the Waimarama fire ignited on Monday morning.


"I could see the smoke rush through the trees and flames light up the hills surrounding us.

"It was so close and went right around our fence line ... for it not to get our home, someone must have been looking after us."

Moments after running to the phone, Mr Lowe said fire engines "hooned" up his driveway and began to battle the blaze.

"I honestly think that's what saved us as when they arrived the wind picked up."

Mum of three Ali McEwan was sure their home on Waimarama Rd would not survive after fleeing with her kids.

"It's a miracle. I can't believe that the house didn't burn down," Ms McEwan said.

"[Fire crews] saved our house for us. It just feels like a miracle that we've still got somewhere to live."

Ms McEwan spent Monday afternoon at the Matangi Rd cordon, believing her house was gone.

"I came up [to the house] and trees by the driveway were on fire, and the wind came this way and it started coming towards us and so I ran.

"I went back to Matangi Rd and I just watched this orange wall of flames."

She and her three sons were relieved to return on Tuesday to find their home standing, and their pets safe.

However, one family on Waimarama Rd was not so lucky.

Guy Gemmill's home was reduced to a pile of scorched wood, broken glass, and charred roofing.

Mr Gemmill declined to comment, but a close friend said the family were "absolutely devastated" by the loss of their home, which Mr Gemmill had built.

"They're just completely devastated. They had a beautiful home and it's completely gone, and all they've got is the clothes they're standing in," she said.

"They're quite a close-knit little family so they're just coping as best they can," she said.

"They've lost the home that they built ... and they've just got nothing now."

Craggy Range Rd resident Judy Matthews said they kept an eye on the situation and packed their vehicle in case a quick escape was needed.

"The dog was first on the back of the truck then we got the family photos and ... headed down the road."

Staying with relatives, they were allowed back to their house on Tuesday morning to feed the cats. At that stage she was relieved to be told by a fireman that they were winning the battle against the fire.

She praised the firefighters' efforts, some of whom she saw lying on the grass verges totally exhausted.

"They are wonderful people keeping the fire from our house," she said.

One of these firefighters, Hastings Fire Service's Colin Beswick, is a veteran of 38 years who had seen plenty of blazes in his time.

Things really kicked off with the Raukawa fire, followed by the one at Colin White Rd, one at Puketitiri and then Waimarama Rd.

The Waimarama Rd fire that broke out on Monday upped the ante after a string of vegetation fires, Mr Beswick said.

It proved to be the most challenging and exhausting for fire crews that were on the ground battling with the terrain and high winds, he said.

"The wind was blowing so much that gusts would knock you forward every five to 10 minutes. It was relentless, and the 34C temperatures dried you out."

Navigating the hillsides on slippery grass "that was like silk" added to the difficulty, and even with his experience he said he was surprised how fast the fire spread.

"We have been coming in at lunchtime and not getting home until 10pm."

He said the public had been awesome in showing their appreciation for the firefighters' efforts, dropping off food that had helped out with the extra crews on board, and going out of their way to praise the team's efforts.

Stationed near Red Bridge on Monday and Tuesday, about 35 Salvation Army members were busy providing firefighters with food and drink at a support station.

The Salvation Army emergency services co-ordinator Craig Campbell said the station had continually supplied emergency services with food, going through 800 hamburgers, 600 sausages, 300 pies and 40 loaves of toasted sandwiches.

Local couple Wendy and Mark Dawson, who live next door to the support station and helped out on Monday, said they felt the need to contribute.

"They're right outside our gate, I wasn't about to sit at home and do nothing," Mrs Dawson said.

"We're just glad we can help. It's such as scary thing. I'm here to help because the next time it could be us.

"Everyone is pulling finger out here. Rural volunteer firefighters are out here and some of them are elderly but they're just going for it," she said.

"Although they're tired, they've been going all over the Bay, they're not complaining," she said.