It was business as usual at the Mangonui Hotel yesterday, thanks in very large part to the local volunteer fire brigade.
Seventeen - of about 24 - firefighters responded when an alarm at the hotel directly connected to the Kaitaia fire station activated a few minutes before 7am on Monday, shaving valuable seconds from the time it took to get two appliances to the waterfront.
And those few seconds might have made all the difference, Chief Fire Officer Ant Pederson said.
The fire started in a 3m-square shed at the rear of the property, home to a range of solar panels that powered the hot water system.
Neighbours from the nearby cafe were attacking the flames with a garden hose when the first fire crew arrived, to no avail.
By that stage flames were licking the exterior wall of the 112-year-old hotel, less than 2m from the shed, and taking hold on the fire escape.
Everyone from upstairs, including guests, was safely evacuated, however, and 4000 litres of water later the brigade had the fire out.
"If we'd been five minutes later it would have been a hell of a situation," Pederson said, adding that the volunteers' response had been exemplary.
"Everyone knows just how significant the hotel is, and no one wanted to see it damaged, or worse, destroyed," he said.
There was real relief too that the hotel's resident parrot, 54-year-old Barney, was back in the public bar yesterday, greeting anyone who wandered in his direction with a friendly "Hello."
Duty manager Nicole Hohaia, who has worked at the hotel for 13 years, said publican Paddy O'Leary had removed the bird to safety himself.
"He was a bit shaken by all the commotion, and he wasn't too keen to go back into his cage, but he's okay," she said. "He just wanted some cuddles to calm him down."
O'Leary bought Barney in Taheke when he moved to Mangonui from Dargaville's Northern Wairoa Hotel 20 years before, Hohaia said, and he had become a popular attraction in his own right.
She was very grateful for the efforts of all who had helped deal with the blaze, and to the fire brigade for the speed of its response.
"If they hadn't been so fast the whole building could have gone," she said.
On the bright side, the scare had demonstrated that the hotel's evacuation plan worked, as well as the alarm system, Pederson said.