A planned birthday party for a 6-year-old has turned into a nightmare today when a family returned home to find their house in flames.

Willem Bronkhorst, his wife Madeleine, and their two children Willem Jnr, 6, and Amelia, 3, returned from Willem Jnr's soccer game at 11am this morning to find their house burning to the ground. They were unharmed, but the property on the corner of Broadway and Pembroke Rd in Stratford, Taranaki, was mostly destroyed.

Mr Bronkhorst said it was particularly heartbreaking as today is Willem Jnr's birthday.

"We had a party planned this afternoon and a big cake."


Instead it was an emotional day for different reasons, as he watched his home burning.

"I opened the garage door and saw smoke billow out, so we backed out and called the fire brigade," Mr Bronkhorst said.

Emergency services were soon on the scene, but most of the house could not be salvaged.

The Fire Service is investigating the cause.

"I know we didn't leave the stove on, we always turn it off at the wall, as we have young children," said Mr Bronkhorst, a dairy farmer who is currently on sick leave because of two hip operations recently after being crushed by a cow.

"It was my first day out the house in two weeks."

He said he was sure they will have a place to stay tonight, "as we are members of the Vineyard church and I know they will help us".

But he was worried about getting hold of the medication he is taking for his hips.


"At least we were all out and no-one was hurt."