Fire at Keirunga Gardens in Hawke's Bay suspicious
A fire that partly destroyed a Hawke's Bay arts and crafts hub has been labelled "suspicious" by investigators.
More than 50 firefighters worked to control the blaze late on Tuesday night as it spread through the historic Keirunga Gardens complex, on a hill overlooking Havelock North.
A self-contained flat and garage at the park were destroyed, while the neighbouring theatre and craft spaces sustained considerable damage.
The fire began in the garage but no ignition source was found, which made the blaze suspicious.
Police were investigating.
The historic homestead, quilters cottage and miniature train circuit, also located at the gardens, were saved by fire crews.
One resident who lives two streets away thought loud banging sounds about 11.30pm were bird scarers.
"My logical mind hoped it wasn't something bad," she said.
But when she looked out her bedroom window she saw bright orange flames rising from the trees. "My partner said to get in the car."
But fire crews had already arrived.
Despite the late time, many residents were outside watching the flames from surrounding roads.
The night was still and clear, and the temperature five degrees.
Another neighbour who lives directly below the blaze said after two loud bangs she looked out the window.
She could see the flames spreading down the hill and called 111 but the fire service was already on its way.
Later she watched the crews extinguish the blaze and was fully dressed in preparation to evacuate.
"[The fire] stopped at one line of trees. I thought, when it gets to the next one I'm out of here."
Despite the surrounding houses, assistant area commander Nigel Hall said nobody needed to be evacuated.
Initially firefighters suspected the occupant of the unit may have been home at the time but the person was located by police at work.
Hall said the pottery building at the gardens sustained damage to its roof, as well as smoke damage, but was otherwise saved.
The rescue effort required 12 fire engines and 50 people.
He said the location of the building on top of the tree-lined hill meant water was difficult to get to the site and needed to be run from Tanner St below.
"The crews have worked very hard and continue to work."
Hastings District Council manages the gardens, while many of the buildings are owned by the Keirunga Gardens Arts and Crafts Society.
"The historic homestead and cottage were well away from the fire and are not damaged. Some of the artwork that was stored in the damaged building has been saved."
The council has secured the site while the fire is investigated and members of the public are asked to stay clear of this portion of the gardens.