The Moerewa community is rallying around a family with five children who lost everything they own in a fire so intense it melted gutters on two neighbouring homes.
The fire, on Mason Ave in Moerewa, broke out about 4.30pm on Sunday.
Kawakawa, Paihia and Kerikeri fire brigades responded but the single-storey weatherboard home was burning fiercely when the first firefighters arrived.
Neighbours Tony and Andrea Wikaire were shocked by the speed at which the flames spread.
''It was pretty scary. It started in the other corner, three minutes later it was on this side of the house. Smoke was everywhere,'' Tony Wikaire said.
He called 111 but while he was still on the phone he saw the wooden fence between the two houses catch fire.
''We were trying to hold it back with a little garden hose. I was saying, 'C'mon garden hose, I can wee faster than that'. It was panic stations really.''
Andrea Wikaire had just hung out some washing when she smelt smoke.
She went outside ready to give someone a telling off for burning rubbish when she realised the house next door was on fire.
''We saw the young fellow try to run back in to get something but everyone was yelling, 'Get out of there boy!'. He couldn't even save his van. They were lucky to get out of there with the clothes they were wearing. It's sad so close to Christmas.''
She described the family — a couple and five children, from 7-year-old twin boys to teenagers — as ''very good people who look after each other''.
''They're a very loving family,'' she said.
The young man had come over later to apologise for the damage to their fence.
''As long as he and his family are safe, that's all we care about.''
Andrea Wikaire said the response from the Moerewa community had been heartfelt and immediate.
Relatives who appealed for replacement clothing and furniture had been inundated with donations from around the mid-North, while a mother and daughter had moved out of their home at the other end of Mason Ave so the family would have somewhere to stay until they found their feet.
One of the parents is understood to work for Healthy Homes Tai Tokerau, which has offered any help the family needs.
Kawakawa fire chief Wayne Martin said with the house already fully involved, the brigade's first priority was to protect neighbouring houses.
Gutters and downpipes on both neighbouring houses had melted, fences had been burnt and windows cracked from the heat.
''They [the neighbours] were very lucky. It was quite an intense fire, being such an old house.''
Martin believed one woman and three teenage children were home at the time. They noticed smoke, found the fire and evacuated immediately.
No one was injured but the family had lost everything, he said.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.
■ Donations of furniture and children's clothing, for 7- to 15-year-olds, can be dropped off at 26 Otiria Rd, Moerewa.