When Pukehina fire chief Errol Watts hoped in his truck and saw thick, black, smoke coming over the horizon, he knew he needed back up and needed it quickly.

"I knew it was bad."

The seasoned firefighter immediately called for more firefighters a water tanker as his brigade rushed out to reports of a house on fire in Arawa Rd. When they arrived, the house was already ablaze.

For Arawa Rd resident Su Marsden, it was the sound of breaking glass that told her something amiss at the three-bedroom rental next door.


"I was already out in the back garden, so I glanced over the fence and saw flames coming out of the kitchen window," Marsden said.

"I immediately rang for the fire brigade. I was a bit of a panic because I know she has got two little children."

Read more: Young family lose everything

Marsden said she did not know whether the family was home or not. Unable to get to the kitchen, she went around the side of the house, found the family's dog and took it over to her property.

About six minutes had passed, and she said that in time that the smoke had gone "right the way through the house".

Fire breaks out at a house in Pongakawa. Photo / Su Marsden
Fire breaks out at a house in Pongakawa. Photo / Su Marsden

"I banged on all the doors and shouted, but I couldn't hear anything. I tried to ring them, but it went straight to voicemail."

When the family turned up, not long after the fire engines, "of course, there were lots of tears".

The homeowner, who lived nearby, also arrived.


"There's just nothing you can do with the power of fire, once it takes hold. Unfortunately for us, there is not a fire hydrant in our street," Marsden said.

The "lovely young family" had been in the house just under a year. She understood they would be going back today to see if there was anything they could salvage.

Marsden said she felt for the family and has called on people to donate baby clothes, toys, kitchenware and furniture.

"My mum and dad's house in England burned down. I know what they are going through."

Marsden has asked any donated items to be taken to Think Water in Te Puke to be passed along.

Watts said he was confident the fire started in the kitchen because "that area of the house is completely gutted".

"The rest is severely smoke damaged. And with the carcinogens of smoke damage in items, it's pretty bad. We've got to make sure that even with children's toys that look like they are fine unless they are washed really well, you're almost better to toss them."

Watts said the family "have pretty much lost everything".