Rotorua house 'inferno' destroys 80-year-old's home of 50 years
It was described as an 'inferno', and in just minutes it robbed Bernie Hornfeck of his home of 50 years.
The house, in the Rotorua suburb of Lynmore, caught fire sometime around 1am on Tuesday morning.
The 89-year-old - speaking outside his ruined home wearing clothes donated by a neighbour - said he was unsure as to the cause of the fire, but knew he had had a lucky escape.
"The only fire was my stove," he said.
"I was sleeping in the living room at the time. I knew straight away there was a fire due to the smoke. Within a few minutes the whole place went up."
Hornfeck, a well known community activist and gardener around Rotorua, had lost everything, even his hearing aids.
He remained stoic about the loss of the home he built himself in 1967, however.
"It's a bit of a mess, but we can build another."
He also had words of praise for the neighbours who have rushed to offer assistance.
"They've been marvellous, helping me out, bringing me clothes."
One neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, described the scene she saw in the early hours of the morning.
"It just woke me up and I thought someone was having a party, firecrackers. Then when I looked out the whole place was an inferno."
The neighbour said that due to the ferocity of the blaze, they believed Hornfeck was lucky to be alive.
"If he's been at the back of the house it would have been a different story. We could be having a vert different conversation."
Fellow neighbour Lisa Cameron said she was woken by Hornfeck banging on her door, and she described the scene she saw when she stepped outside her house.
"[I saw Bernie] standing out there barefoot, staring in total shock."
She said the fire was so large she feared for her house, and loaded her pets into the car in case they needed to flee.
"I thought our house is going to get it too," she said.
"It was very loud, really scary and you could see canisters. . . the stuff was coming out like rockets," she said.
"Everyone wants to put him up, but he's just happy to be alive."
Fire crews remained at the scene of the blaze on Tuesday morning hours after the two storey property on Iles Rd caught fire.
They had been there since the fire service received multiple calls to the blaze at 1.20am, Northern Fire Communications shift manager Megan Ruru said.
A second alarm was raised calling for extra fire crews, she said.
When the first fire truck arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.
Everyone was out of the property and accounted for, Ruru said.
"They are continuing to dampen down any hotspots and provide scene protection as there is potential for a building collapse."
A fire investigator had been requested to look into the currently unknown cause of the blaze.