A home invader walked past six sleeping children "flickering a lighter" before setting fire to the family car.
It was one of three suspicious fires in as many days that Hastings police are investigating, including the torching of a house.
"We are relieved it was the car and not the house," mother of six Anahera Matiaha said. Her mother was asleep in the lounge of their Jellicoe St home on Friday when a man walked through the house at about 4.30am.
"He was flickering his lighter as he walked down the hallway and as he got closer I realised it wasn't any of us," her mother, who asked not to be named, said.
"He sat down on our couch and said he was staying the night. I said, 'Dude, you are in the wrong house'."
She went to the back door and told him to leave, which he did, still flickering his lighter. She then quickly locked the door behind him.
She thought he had left and had gone back to bed until she heard a noise outside. "When I jumped up and opened the curtains the car was in flames."
The car was parked on the street and the flames spread to their boundary fence.
Police were soon on the scene and removed the destroyed car because it was a traffic hazard, Ms Matiaha said.
"The doors are always locked now because the kids are pretty scared - they won't go to the toilet by themselves."
Losing their only car was a serious disadvantage. "The kids still go to school in Napier - I have no idea how I am going to get them there."
The following morning, also in the suburb of Mayfair, a car was set alight in Alexandra St after a rag was pushed into its petrol tank and ignited at 3.38am.
Peter Blades said the car, parked on the street, belonged to his nephew.
"It was pretty empty, so there was more fumes than petrol, so it went off with a boom," he said.
An hour later an unoccupied house in Miller St was set alight.
Neighbour Hein Soer was evacuated from his home while Hastings firefighters battled the blaze.
Plastic guttering on his house and car port caught fire from the blaze but was extinguished. "Police said to stay outside - it was too dangerous," he said.
The run-down house suffered extensive damage. It had been unoccupied for the 35 years he had lived next door, he said.
Across the road from the destroyed house lives Sarah Hildred, who was asleep with her one-year-old son before dialling 111. "I got woken up by a really strange noise. It was the fire crackling," she said. "It was super hot. I have never been that close to a large fire and you could feel the heat inside through the glass.
"It was quite scary so I got him (her son) up and put him in his pushchair and we spent a couple of hours out the back."
Two weeks ago another empty house nearby was destroyed by a suspicious fire in the early hours of the morning. It was one of three houses stored in the carpark of the the Heretaunga Club, as part of a building development for the merger of the club with the Hastings RSA.
On Wednesday a 20-year-old Hastings man was remanded on bail on two counts of arson for two small fires in the same Mayfair street where he lived, this month and last month.
Police Senior Sergeant Nick Dobson said a man was seen fleeing the Saturday morning fire. Recent fires "may or may not be related" but were all being investigated, he said.
Anyone with information should phone Hastings police on 06 873 0500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.