A groundbreaking New Zealand sportswoman has lost a treasure trove of sporting memorabilia after a dehumidifier sparked a devastating Auckland house fire.
Monique Williams nee Rodahl - Olympic swimmer and New Zealand's youngest ever Commonwealth Games athlete when she competed in 1974 aged 13 - now hopes her tragedy acts as a potentially lifesaving reminder to others.
International medals, Olympic team photos, swimming record certificates and a collection of 15 deeply personal journals from Williams' years' competing were among the irreplaceable items lost in the December 10 blaze at the Remuera house.
A swimming prodigy, Williams' caught the national spotlight at the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games before finishing fifth at the 1975 World Championships, aged 15, and competing in the 1976 Olympics.
"My mum and dad kept absolutely everything from my career," Williams said.
"It's not just memorabilia - it's my story. To lose so much is really tough."
The fire marked another chapter in her extended family's remarkable history - one that has wavered from the heights of Olympic gold in 1928 to surviving Nazi oppression during the World War II.
Yet Williams preferred to put a positive bent on the recent fire, seeing it as a chance to remind Kiwis to keep a closer eye on the dehumidifiers that mostly run quiet and unnoticed in our homes.
She said she had only momentarily popped out of her Chapfield Pl home on December 10 to buy groceries.
Then, returning shortly after, she didn't even smell smoke.
"I opened the bedroom door and basically walked into the flames," she said.
"The whole room was black and just by opening that door the oxygen fanned the flames."
Williams' husband and daughter were away at the time, but her son Tim was downstairs and quickly rushed up.
They tried throwing half a bucket of water on the flames, but it did nothing.
"Then we shut the door and Tim said: 'Mum, run'."
"I grabbed one of the dogs and ran out of the house."
The family's other dog ran downstairs and Tim dashed down to retrieve it - a rescue trip that left him needing treatment for smoke inhalation.
Soon the bedroom windows began blowing out, going off like "fire crackers", while outside, neighbours tried to console Williams.
It had all happened so fast. Probably within three-to-four minutes from when she arrived home.
"It is devastating watching and knowing you are helpless, you can't do anything," she said.
"I just wish I could rewind like in the movies."
Fire and Emergency crews arrived within minutes and after half an hour put the blaze out.
A Fire and Emergency spokeswoman said a dehumidifier kept "close to flammable materials" caused the blaze.
"It's a reminder to make sure anything flammable is at least one metre away from heat sources (heaters, dehumidifiers, fireplaces)," she said.
But Williams said the dehumidifier wasn't close to flammable materials. She had grown up around open fireplaces and knew to keep heaters away from their close surrounds.
She said it had been a humid and musty day, and she turned on the dehumidifier like you would a fan, expecting it to run safely. It didn't.
And that left many damaged items.
Photos of Williams' grandfather Bernard Leene - a three-time Olympian who won a Netherlands 2000m tandem cycling gold medal in 1928 and silver in the same event in the 1936 Berlin Games - were retrieved blackened.
Leene and his brother would later go on to be key members of the Dutch resistance against Nazi Germany.
Williams' mother Antoinette Leene also courageously played her part, riding through the countryside as a courier for the resistance with messages strapped to her body.
When Antoinette Leene later travelled to New Zealand to train as a nurse, she met Williams' father in Auckland and the pair stayed put.
They became Williams' swim coaches with recording every step of her daughter's career.
That included collecting Auckland Swimming yearbooks dating back to 1968 with handwritten swim times for each squad member written in the margins.
There were also old swim programmes, photos and notes about virtually every swimming competition Williams took part in since she was 8 - both in New Zealand and abroad.
During a period when Williams trained in Norway under renowned coaches, she kept a log of every single session she swam.
The series of 16 logbooks soon turned into a journal, also recording her feelings and life events during what was a very tough time.
However, 15 of the 16 books were lost in the fire along with most of Williams' other memorabilia, including all her Olympic and Commonwealth Games team photos.
One of her swim programmes was blown out of the house by an explosion in the fire.
Her neighbours collected six pages and gave the charred remains back to Williams.
She now plans to frame them.
She also lost countless family photos and pieces of history she hoped to pass down.
"It is the story, the memories attached to these things that make them very special possessions to me," she said.
Possession like TVs were just "things" that could be replaced, she said.
"But when you hold up a certificate from Czechoslovakia, you go back there, it triggers all those funny things you can remember."
Losing that was like losing part of your past, she said.
Williams said her family had faced plenty of adversity in her past.
That included her Olympic career ending anti climatically when New Zealand boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
To help her get through her recent challenges, Williams has is grateful for the support of the North Shore Swimming Club - New Zealand's largest swim club - where she is junior head coach.
"That's always been my happy place so that always where I end up going," she said.
She also tried to live by a philosophy she passes onto her juniors: that being a professional athlete helps prepare people to keep picking themselves up with each new challenge.
"You become a trained athlete for life," she said.
"And whatever life adversities come your way, you either put your cabin goggles on or you put your running shoes on and do what you have to do."