Whangārei mum Latisha Slade watched in horror today as the old villa in which she was raised went up in flames.
Emergency services blocked off part of First Ave in central Whangārei around noon
as firefighters with breathing apparatus battled to save the villa.
While bringing the fire under control, firefighters also fought to protect neighbouring properties while a large number of people flocked to watch.
Firefighters will remain on site for much of the afternoon while fire investigator Craig Bain worked to find the cause of the blaze.
Slade said she lived with her mum and siblings in that villa for 12 years. She and her partner bought a house next door more than three years ago.
Her family sold the villa, built in 1912, two years ago. Slade said the new owners had planned to demolish it and build two new houses.
She didn't know the house was on fire until she heard a banging noise and went to her kitchen.
"I was raised in that house... it's so sad. We were supposed to use all the timber from the villa because it's all rimu to do up our house, the weatherboard, the windows.
"We always knew the villa had to be demolished but not like this. We didn't want to see it go like this. There's heaps of memories. We were meant to help pull it down and use the timber from it.
"I may be able to make a book case out of the wood which I may still be able to find, even if charcoal is added to it. They are of such sentimental value to me.
"My friends, my sister's friends we all used to stay there. It's just so sad."
Slade said her mother, who lived in Whangārei but was in the Far North today,
was unaware of the fire.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) assistant area commander for Whangārei/Kaipara, Graeme Quensell, said the villa was engulfed when fire crews arrived.
"The house couldn't be saved due to its age and the extent of the fire. The neighbouring properties are being protected and just to make sure the fire is completely extinguished.
"Unlike new houses, these villas have hollow walls so the fire goes right through to the roof. Modern houses have studs, nogging and gib which can keep the fire in one room if the door is closed."
Quensell said motorists needed to ensure they parked vehicles away from fire hydrants on the road.
Two cars parked over fire hydrant on First Ave forced firefighters to draw water from another hydrant on Central Ave, about 100 metres from the burning house.
"They had to run a hose which fell two metres short and then we had to wait for another fire truck with a bigger hose to arrive before we would access the hydrant on Central Ave."