Three friends were lucky to escape a fire that gutted their East Auckland home, killed three of their beloved pets and destroyed nearly all their possessions.
Tina Rameka was watching TV in her bedroom when the state house on Taniwha St in Glen Innes that she had lived at for 20 years caught fire about 7pm on Wednesday.
Her long time friend George Yelchich, who was staying with her after having a stroke, had become distracted while heating a pot of oil on the stove.
By the time they realised about two minutes later the entire kitchen was engulfed in flames.
"It was coming from the ceiling and it was coming through the doors," said Rameka.
Nick Whall, who has rented a room in Rameka's house for about 10 years, had popped out to the shops and arrived home just as the fire started.
"I thought it was just burnt toast. [Then Yelchich] got up and the next thing I hear is 'Sh**, sh**'. There were absolutely massive flames coming out the side of the kitchen," Whall told the Herald.
Paralysed down one side due to the stroke, Yelchich needed help leaving. He usually uses a wheelchair, but made it out on foot with Rameka guiding him.
Rameka and Yelchich also escaped the blaze unharmed, as did their cat Chancey and three of their four dogs. However, one dog was stuck inside. The other dogs heard it barking and two of them ran back into the house. The three dogs in the house died.
A neighbour who saw the smoke rang Fire and Emergency New Zealand. By the time fire crews arrived at the scene the blaze was well involved.
"We got out with nothing. [Rameka] came out with her dog, her phone and her dressing gown," said Whall.
"Poor old George lost his wheelchair and all his clothes."
All Rameka's possessions, including her glasses and dentures, were destroyed.
"They were on the bed. When I found them they were a pile of molten," said Whall.
However, it was Rameka's dogs that she missed most. The animals had been a great comfort to her after her partner died about eight years ago, Whall said.
"She's got one dog and that's just such a blessing."
Whall had been unable to search through the debris to find out whether any of his possessions survived the fire because of the asbestos in the home's roof.
The trio didn't have insurance.
Rameka and Yelchich are staying with Rameka's daughter but plan to start searching for another house on Monday. They hope to get either a Housing New Zealand property or private rental.
Whall has found other accommodation.
Family members and neighbours had rallied around the three friends, providing clothes and blankets.
However, they still needed to replace Rameka's dentures and glasses and Yelchich's wheelchair. In the meantime Yelchich is using crutches to get around.
Rameka said the last few days have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
"I've had my ups and downs especially in the morning and at night."
She told the Herald Yelchich was also upset. The 65-year-old former lawyer struggled to speak because of his stroke.
Rameka said she and her family would care for Yelchich full time because she didn't want him to have to go into a care home.
"He's not the right person to go in those places. He'll just shrivel up and die."
A police spokeswoman confirmed the cause of the fire at Rameka's home was a "cooking accident".
It was one of two fires on Taniwha St this week, but the blazes are believed to be unrelated.
A Molotov cocktail was allegedly thrown at another house on the road at 2.40am on Saturday. The home wasn't badly damaged but police confirmed that fire was suspicious.
Rameka has set up a Givealittle page to fundraise for her and Yelchich. To donate click here.