Lance "Stretch" Voice thought he'd lost everything when fire tore through his bus — but the Waihī man has learned how far the town's kindness can stretch.

He has already had the beginnings of his new home delivered — a former Radio Hauraki bus from Waikino — which has more mod cons than his burnt-out Seddon diesel ever had, including a fridge.

The Seddon was home for Stretch and his animals for 16 years, and is now a blackened hulk from the fire on the evening of Sunday June 30.

Everything was destroyed, including his beloved Sydney Silky dog Podgie Wodgie (15), who he describes as his "best friend".


"I always thought she would die in my arms," he says quietly.

"I don't know what happened," he says. "It was 5pm when I left for dinner at a mate's place and the [pot belly] fire was going."

When he returned at about 11.30pm the bus was engulfed in flames and the back corner window was open.

"And it wasn't when I left."

Stretch tried valiantly to save his beloved animals that were inside — burning his hand in the process — and managed to save three cats who had hidden inside the front grille, but his beloved dog and another cat died.

"The fire was like you see on TV when they say you should stay low. I might've made it worse when I opened the door so I went down and busted a window.

Stretch has lived in Waihi since age 14 and is well-known for his kindness, delivering crystals, muffins and flowers over many years just so he can make the recipient smile.

Since the fire, he has been inundated with an outpouring of kindness from the community.


A Givealittle page started by longtime friend Tracey Moreland is at $9000 and an auction was held at the Underground Market with miniature horses, face painting and haircuts that raised more than $2000.

Tracey's job at the Commercial Hotel has raised more than $2000 in coin collecting alone.
"I didn't know they were going to raise so munch money," says Stretch.

He is humbled and grateful, and says it has left him needing to find alternative needy people for some of the items that he has been given in excess, like the eight pairs of "tog undies".

People have arrived with arm loads of blankets and tea sets, coffee, tea and sugar, handkerchiefs, rugby socks, three raincoats and a brand new bicycle from the local bike store.

However, Stretch wanted to let people know he does not want for much in his life.

He doesn't drink tea or coffee, he eats off paper plates and the Seddon had no fridge or television.

With no power, these would have been useless.

"When you live alone you only need a frying pan and a pot," he says.

"I want my dog and my cat back, but I can't have that.

"I went to the supermarket yesterday and found myself in front of the dog food crying — I'm really glad no-one came down the aisle at that moment."

What he will miss is the 19 banana boxes full of books that he had, the majority of which were destroyed.

He has his other cats to keep him company, and those who have left him "inundated" by cat food can be assured none of this will go to waste.