By Tess Brunton for RNZ
Like winning the Lotto - that's how a Lake Ōhau couple have described discovering their pets alive and well days after they were separated by fire.
Residents frantically tried to find and bring their pets with them as they fled the embers and flames that swept through the village on Sunday morning.
The fire destroyed or damaged at least 40 homes as it burned through more than 5500 hectares.
Days later the fire remains active - with about 17 crews working to manage hotspots and secure the perimeter.
Three generations of Hugh Spiers' family and their pets fled flames roaring through Lake Ōhau on Sunday morning.
They were staying at The Barn at Killin B&B which he and his partner Dwayne own.
"Lala the crazy cat - she was thrown in with Holly and my mum, and they took off. We got Claude our ginger cat and Tay our dog and rescued them. We squished them in the car here. But we just couldn't find Coco and of course, you don't think about a little lamb who's way over there at the other end of the paddock and the paddock is on fire. You just gotta leave her and hope for the best," he said.
It was a terrible morning - flames strained towards the sky, reaching up to 15 metres.
For three days they fretted - not knowing the fate of Gladys, their one-month-old pet lamb and their cat Coco.
They couldn't access their property on Monday's bus convoy ... it was still smouldering.
But on Tuesday night, they were allowed back in with a firefighter escort.
Hugh Spiers began calling to Gladys through the darkness.
"I could hear this little baa baa, and it was Gladys ... I just ran in the dark and I could see this little thing flying towards me like a puppy. I just jumped down onto my knees and there she was ... licking me like a puppy and I had a bottle of milk formula with me and she gobbled it down," Spiers said.
"I was just overwhelmed with excitement, but I think she was probably more excited to see me."
But he couldn't see Coco.
"I could hear Dwayne yelling out 'Coco, Coco' ... and I said 'have you got her?' and he said 'yeah, she's in the car'. Right, let's get out of here.
"Amazing ... like a phoenix out of the ashes there were two of our little furry babies. We're really happy guys. We won Lotto last night."
With all his pets safe, he and his family returned to the village again today to see the damage in daylight - and discover how Gladys had escaped her pen.
She had pushed the gate so hard she broke the latch.
Just a month old, Gladys is already a battler - the first weekend they brought her home, it snowed Spiers said.
He told Heath Du Plessis-Allan Gladys had slept in a little house outside, with a large bowl of water and some food still left when the couple evacuated.
"I don't know who was more lucky - them or us," he said.
On the other side of the fire front, Quailburn sheep and beef farmer Grant Murray tried to save his sheep during the intensity of the fire.
"We could see how bad the flames were and all the rest of it. We just started pushing sheep in the same direction as the wind was blowing, in the same direction as the smoke was going, just to get them out as fast as we could."
He lost about 150 to 180 sheep out of around 2000 on that part of the farm but said he was lucky to rescue as many as he did.
Back in Twizel, Fire and Emergency incident controller Rob Hands said other residents were hoping to find their beloved pets.
"One of the residents has lost their dog, Milo, and it's been spotted a couple of times. The latest time was about 10am this morning. Not that enthusiastic to get in the vehicle just yet, but we have got chocolate fish for those who do find him," Hands said.
Away from the animals - insurance assessors have been able to get access to the area for the first time, looking at individual properties today.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand today released dramatic footage of the first crews arriving at the fire, with vehicles driving between walls of flames with embers scattered across the road.
Smoke billows high into the night sky as the tussocks on the hillside glow red in the dark.
Firefighters were continuing to inch closer to getting the fire completely under control, a spokesperson said.
"As of this evening 91 per cent of the perimeter is controlled to 50m (meaning no hotspots within 50m) and the remaining 9 pr cent controlled to 10m (meaning no hotspots within 10m)."
Two crews will monitor the fire overnight, as drones fly over the area to map out any hotspots.
Tomorrow crews will return to the fire ground and continue to secure the fire perimeter, identify potential hazards and manage any hotspots.
- Additional reporting by the NZ Herald