A Northland family fled their house of three decades in a fire that destroyed everything, including precious artwork.
"Our writings, measurements, markings, our kids' heights, our pictures on the wall- everything is lost with the house," said Materoa Niha, the oldest daughter of George and Roberta Niha who lost their home in Pipiwai.
The Nihas, their daughter Milina Niha, 1-year-old Mokoboy and his 5-year-old brother, were in the house when the fire started on Sunday evening
and managed to get out in time.
However, the family could not find their dog and cat after the incident.
When firefighters arrived at the isolated property about 6pm on Sunday, the house was well involved.
Northland senior fire risk management officer Gary Beer is investigating the cause.
Roberta said her husband George had just had a cup of tea by the fire and went to sleep.
"He didn't think of anything because we use that fireplace so many times. The logs started falling out and my daughter who was lying on her bed could hear the noise.
"She looked at it through her window and it occurred to her that it was a fire. She went outside and started calling everyone. My husband went out and began putting out the fire.
"But it was just too big and with the wind blowing so hard, it was getting even more out of control. We just rushed outside the house as the inside was already catching on fire.
"I went to the barbeque area and it was spinning and throwing flames everywhere.
"I think we lost our dog and cats in the house fire. Trixie sleeps right under the fireplace and we are really worried about them."
The house was 30 years old and was the first place the couple called home.
They bought it when they were both 21. Eight children, 22 moko, cousins and their children were raised in the house and everyone called it their home.
Insulin-dependent George also lost his medicines in the fire. The family said they were grateful to the hospital that provided him with the insulin the night of the fire.
George was a carver and all his carving tools which were his taonga were destroyed.
Niece Vicki-lee Harris said her uncle lost all his life's work in the house.
"There were boxes and boxes of carving tools that were passed on to him through generations and other people. His entire life's work, his whakapapa is now lost. That is just irreplaceable."
Roberta said the family were just starting to renovate the kitchen and everyone had helped build the house from the bottom up.
"The middle-of-the-night paintings, blasting off the light bulbs; there's heart gone into this place."
Their daughter Materoa said her father was the sort of person who would give away every little bit he had.
"He's always contributed to anything to do with the family. He was always there. Aunty too would feed everyone out of nothing. Dad was also part of a lot of trusts. He would help out anyone in need and made it something that he was proud to represent.
"It is not those material things; it is all those 30 plus years of memories. You can replace everything, but the whakapapa, that is irreplaceable."
During Covid lockdown last year, the house was like a marae for everything, said Materoa.
"We had over 30 of us during the Covid bubble, locked in that house. We were all home and it was our bubble. We stayed there for four weeks straight, in camps, caravans, mattresses, real marae style.
"We arranged big school classes for our kids in the house because there were so many of them."
Materoa remembered how they were all together in the house, just two days ago.
"Nearly half of our family was there just two days ago for a weekend together. We had our meals together, talking about what are we going to do about our children's goals in life, and contemplating the future. Now, the house can be rebuilt, but all the memories are gone.
"We watch other people's house burning down and think 'oh poor thing', but it is not until it happens to you that you realise the intensity of the trauma. It feels like someone's died. We wouldn't have known that until we've experienced it ourselves now."
Harris, who was helping her grieving uncle and aunty with the insurance, said the house was insured but they were getting run-around for the paperwork.
"Uncle cannot just deal with this right now, he's really devastated. They had just received their papers a few weeks ago letting them know what they owe on their mortgage.
"It was only $1000 that they owned on their mortgage and the rest was paid off. But the paperwork is all in smoke now."
The vehicles were pushed away from the house because the keys were inside the house, Harris said.
Those wishing to help the family can donate at https://www.facebook.com/donate/192596112823478/2336906546444011/.