A Takahue great-grandfather who was badly burned and lost everything he owns in a devastating house fire has been overwhelmed with kindness and support, his family says.
Pete Gay, 81, suffered serious burns and a laceration to one arm in a blaze at his Takahue home, about 20km south of Kaitaia, last Friday.
He managed to get out before the house was fully engulfed in flames.
A passer-by on her way home from work raised the alarm and applied first aid by stopping the bleeding until an ambulance arrived.
The fire was so fierce volunteers from the Kaitaia Fire Brigade could see the smoke even before they left town.
The Takahue Rd house was destroyed, along with his car and all his possessions.
He was initially flown in a serious condition to Whangārei Hospital, where he was stabilised, and then to the burns unit at Middlemore Hospital.
Daughter Michelle ''Mitchy'' Evans said her father was doing well considering what he had been through.
''He has bad burns to his hands and arms and will need skin grafts. He's had his arm operated on where he had a bad laceration from breaking a window. He lost everything in the fire but he feels so blessed to be alive,'' she said.
Evans said her father wanted to thank everyone who had come to his rescue, especially the woman who saved his life by stemming the bleeding from a slashed artery in his arm.
The family did not know who she was but believed she lived in Takahue.
Precious items lost in the fire included vintage racing motorcycles, speedway memorabilia, photos and mementos of his parents.
He had been upset when she had to break the news that the house had been destroyed, and for a few days he kept thinking about all the things he had lost that couldn't be replaced.
He was also greatly concerned about his cat Bobby, a rescued stray that hadn't been seen since the fire.
''He's more worried about the cat than himself,'' Evans said.
However, he had been greatly buoyed by a flood of messages his family had been reading out to him.
''He's just overwhelmed. We all are. He was very emotional when I was reading out the Facebook comments. There's people wishing him to get well soon, people offering prayers and household items, people he's never met wanting to donate money ... The Middlemore burns unit has been amazing and he's being well cared for. All of us are amazed by the love and support the Takahue and Kaitaia communities have sent his way. He's shed many tears of appreciation,'' Evans said.
His mind had also been put at rest by two ''lovely ladies'' who had offered to catch his cat then look after it until he was back on his feet.
Evans said the physical trauma was difficult for an 81-year-old but he was ''a strong bugger'' who, like the proverbial cat with nine lives, had survived many potentially fatal experiences already.
They included having to flee the bombing of Coventry as a toddler in England, speedway crashes, and two bouts of cancer last year.
Evans said her father had been cooking earlier on the day of the fire and thought he might have not fully turned off one element.
That pot eventually caught fire, igniting another pot nearby with oil.
He was woken up by a smoke alarm — she urged everyone to make sure they had working smoke alarms at home — but was unable to release the catch on a fire blanket to extinguish the burning pot.
Once it was clear he couldn't put out the fire he went outside.
He suffered the arm injury breaking a window as he tried to fight the flames from outside with a garden hose.
Evans said the house was uninsured because he felt he couldn't afford the premiums on his pension.
So many people had offered to help financially that granddaughter Taylor Arona had set up a Givealittle page.
''He's the most generous, loving, kind-hearted and humble man. He's given to and helped others all his life, but now is his time of need,'' Arona wrote on the page.
Evans said her father had already received many offers of furniture and household goods, but basic essentials would still need to be replaced.
It would be up to him what to spend any donations on, but possibilities included a new laptop and cellphone to keep him connected to friends and family around the world.
■ Go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/starting-from-the-beginning to donate. The family are also keen to hear about any sightings of Bobby the cat in the Takahue area. Bobby is highly distinctive, mostly white but with a ginger tail and eyebrows.