The grandmother of three children caught in a house fire ''fell to the concrete'' as she begged a neighbour for news of her family.
Fire and police arrived within seven minutes of an emergency call at 9.13am yesterday to find the house in Sinclair Gr, Naenae, engulfed in flames.
Though the two parents and three children - including a three-month-old baby - escaped unharmed, all their possessions were charred and ruined.
Neighbour Te Oraiti Haerewa said she saw the elderly woman, whom she recognised as the children's grandmother, running down the street in distress.
She comforted her as she broke down, pleading for news of her grandchildren, the youngest of whom had been born in June.
''She fell to the concrete. She was in shock.
''Everything happened so fast, we don't know what happened.''
Lower Hutt senior station officer Morgan Wills said he believed the fire started in a spare room in the front of the house as the children slept.
The parents were alerted by a smoke alarm in the kitchen.
''It was well under way when we got here. These old Housing New Zealand houses go up quite well - no fire resistance at all.''
Mr Wills said investigators were working to determine the cause of the fire. ''But it will be pretty hard to determine, given the damage.''
He doubted the family had contents insurance. ''They've lost everything - every possession they had. It's pretty sad, really.''
The house was rented to the family by a private landlord.
Ms Haerewa said she knew her neighbours well, as she had three children of a similar age.
''We've known them since they moved in. They are such a lovely family, and their family has always been there for us.
''They've lost everything and we just want to be able to help them.''
Neighbour Marina Lerm, who has lived in the quiet cul-de-sac for almost three decades, said she saw the fire from her kitchen window as she was making breakfast.
''I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought, is it real, or is it a dream?
Her immediate concerns were for the three children. ''My mind went straight to those children - it's good to see them here, out and about, playing.
''It's very sad. Even though no-one was hurt, they're still having to start from scratch.''
The family is receiving help from Victim Support.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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