As she looked out the window in the middle of the night, Janet Brown saw something that made her jump - the sky was orange.
"Our windows face straight out. We've got - had - these two big sliding windows that looked out to the mountains and it was all ablaze.
"It was all orange - the whole sky," she said.
"I ran and woke everybody up. I knew we didn't have very long and we woke everybody up."
Days later, residents are now facing the devastating reality that has seen up to 50 homes destroyed by a fire at the Lake Ōhau village, in the Mackenzie District, on Saturday.
Speaking outside the Twizel Event Centre - where up to 200 people have been evacuated to - Brown sighed heavily to go back to that night.
"It was a terrifying night. The winds were so strong - and I know how bad the winds can be in Ōhau. It can be very fierce," she said.
"But it was particularly bad and I couldn't sleep - no one could sleep, it was that bad.
Brown and her family had been due to fly out the next day so had already packed bags with their clothes and belongings.
They were some of the lucky ones, though, as many residents only had time to leave their home with only the clothes they were wearing.
"We grabbed the bags, chucked them in the boot of the car and got out as quickly as possible.
"But there were lots of people in the village because of the school holidays. There were a lot of cars on the road. It was incredible what the residents did to get everybody out.
She said many residents were "devastated" at the news many homes had been destroyed.
"There are a lot of people that live there permanently. We don't, luckily, so we can go back to Auckland.
'I cannot believe nobody died. It's is a miracle'
"I feel very, very sorry for those people. They've lost everything - their lives are just, you know, in those homes.
"It's a beautiful place to live. It's a little slice of paradise - demolished. Gone."
Brown said neighbours rushed to let everyone in the village know what was happening and to wake them up.
She described harrowing scenes - queues of cars trying to get out as the fire raged on close by.
"Everyone tooted on the way out to make sure people were awake.
"The whole place was full - the village was full for the holidays - so it was a miracle we got out."
She acknowledged that many people had known for years that if such a blaze broke out, they needed to get out immediately and not to try stay back to save their property.
"You leave everything, you don't be a hero and look after your home because these fires are like wild fires. They rip through - it's wilding pines.
"They are so flammable that we were told years ago that if there is a fire, you get in your car and you go as fast as you can.
"And that is what everybody did - and that is why we're alive."
- additional reporting: Vaimoana Tapaleao