It was a night like any other for business owner Elizabeth Wilkinson.
She'd finished work at CC Interiors, popped a couple of orders in the office tray, set the alarm, locked the doors and left.
That was around 10.30pm.
Minutes later her beloved St Johns furniture and lighting warehouse and showroom was engulfed in fierce flames that destroyed everything. Firefighters say it was one of the biggest fires in Auckland in the last couple of years.
"The building was beyond redemption," Mrs Wilkinson says.
"We lost absolutely everything.
"There's nothing that can be salvaged. It's catastrophic."
Fire investigators are still unsure what sparked the blaze at the Hannigan Drive warehouse on February 3 but are confident it wasn't deliberately lit.
Mrs Wilkinson and her husband Mark had just returned from a business trip to Europe.
Mr Wilkinson got a call from the security company saying the alarms were going off. He called his wife immediately.
"The first thing I was concerned about was Elizabeth. I'm just so glad she wasn't in there."
Mrs Wilkinson arrived back at the building to find one fire unit had turned up.
She saw no sign of smoke and walked into the building to turn off the alarm.
"I went into the warehouse and saw smoke down the back and took off and ran and got the firefighters.
"I was in such a state by this point I didn't know what to do.
"Smoke was coming out the back doors.
"I was just in shock. My whole body was shaking, you can't believe it, it's like a bad dream."
Auckland senior fire risk manager Mike McEnaney says about 120 firefighters fought the blaze which was so intense it damaged two fire trucks.
"It was one of the biggest in Auckland in the last couple of years."
Mr McEnaney says the investigation will be completed later this week.
"The building was secure, the property was secure . . . we're pretty confident it's not a deliberately lit fire."
Mrs Wilkinson used to be an interior designer.
She developed CC Interiors from a humble pop-up store in Newmarket in 2001 to a furniture wholesaler supplying designers and retailers in New Zealand and Australia.
The business supports a range of charities in New Zealand and India including Sewa Ashram providing free medical care and rehabilitation for children living in Delhi's slums.
Mrs Wilkinson says the St Johns showroom was beautiful.
"People talk about it being the most magnificent showroom in the southern hemisphere," she says.
"It's a family business built from nothing and we're now working to get ourselves up and running again.
"Something like this is devastating, but I've got to really focus on how we're going to move forward," Mrs Wilkinson says.
"I've got containers arriving and no premises at all.".
The Wilkinsons are looking for a new warehouse and offices in the area which includes St Johns, Mt Wellington, Ellerslie and Onehunga. They also need warehouse equipment like shelves and racking.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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