Smoke still billows from a Hihi home destroyed in a blaze on Thursday.
A Far North whānau spent Friday morning combing through the charred remains of their home completely decimated in a blaze.
A family member was the only person at the Hihi home when the fire started inside the house on Thursday afternoon, whānau spokeswoman Sandra Heihei said.
He walked out of the bathroom to discover “raging” flames and immediately fled to safety.
The Mangonui Volunteer Fire Brigade responded to the call received around 4.30pm with firefighters rushing to the scene.
Fire investigator Craig Bain said access to the home – described as being similar to a Skyline garage – was made difficult for firefighters due to its long, winding driveway.
“When they got there, it was on the ground.”
The cause of the fire was yet to be determined.
Heihei said the family – two of whom had medical conditions – had been left with almost nothing.
“They lost 35 years of whānau memories, everything except their clothes on their back, phones in their pockets and car.”
A niece wrote on a Givealittle page set up to help the whānau that “sweat and tears” had gone into building the home.
“This house my uncle built mostly with his own two hands, became a home for us all … and to now be left with nothing but the clothes on their backs is dreadful.”
But the family were grateful no one had been hurt.
Heihei said the other whānau members had been at a fundraiser in Taipa.
“Everyone is safe [and] that’s the most important. As a whānau we were always taught all these things are just material things, it is us that carries the next generation, it is life that matters.”
Loved ones were quick to rally around the whānau, who had no insurance. They opened their home to the family and provided what clothing and other items they were able to.
On Friday, the whānau were sorting through the ashes hoping to find family heirlooms, wedding rings, and other precious items.
Heihei said many people within the Doubtless Bay community had asked how they could help the family. She would be collecting donations on behalf of the whānau from the Puketutu-Papakainga on Taemaro Rd.
Household items, men’s and women’s clothing (suitable for a teenage girl), and any other basics would be gratefully accepted from the weekend onwards.
But Heihei asked people to get in touch first either via phone – 09 406 1745 or email – email@example.com.
She, on behalf of the whānau, acknowledged and thanked emergency services and the community for their support and kind gestures.
“There’s not much words that can be said but just being there meant so much.”