A Rotorua family is determined to return to its whanau homestead after a fire in one of the rooms.

Family members fought the blaze with buckets of water after it broke out in a corner room of the Steeles Lane, Western Heights, home yesterday around 12.30pm as they were outside having lunch.

It was the family home of Lance Macpherson and had been empty for about four years.

Mr Macpherson said he and other family members had started doing up the house, ready to be moved in by Christmas.

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There was no power supply and Rotorua Fire Brigade Senior Station Officer Jim Prescott said a candle had blown over and set fire to belongings in the room.

Two fire engines from the Rotorua Fire Brigade, a crew from the Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade and a St John Ambulance were at the scene yesterday. Mr Macpherson said the house had been home to generations of related families.

Lance Macpherson at the homestead as fire fighters clean up. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
Lance Macpherson at the homestead as fire fighters clean up. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

"This is papakainga land of the Corbett, Douglas and Macpherson whanau," he said. "I grew up here. Our plans before this were to be in by Christmas. It was lacking TLC.

"We're still moving back."

He said several family members were at the property at the time of the fire as it was the first full weekend of doing it up.

"When I saw the fire I just yelled, 'Out'. I shot up the drive and they grabbed what valuables were there. I had a moment watching my homestead looking a bit sad."

His son, John Macpherson, said family members got buckets of water to try to slow the fire down "so the whole house didn't go".

"We'll assess whether it's better to come down or be removed," he said.

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"Either way, we still want to live here. It's been in the family more than 50 years and means a lot to us. Luckily everyone was out and safe."

Mr Prescott said if people wanted to use candles they needed to make sure they were well supported, and kept away from open windows and flammable objects. No one required hospital treatment.