Family return to find home gutted by fire

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 18:36 03/03/2014
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

UP IN SMOKE: Firefighters attend the scene of a major house fire in Stoke on Monday evening.

Stoke fire
Graeme Heslop
TAKING HOLD: Flames from the house fire engulf the property.

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A family returned home after a day's work to find their home "completely gutted" in Stoke's Leicester St.

Crews from six fire engines from Stoke, Richmond and Nelson fought the blaze that started at about 4.30pm yesterday.

Specialist fire investigator Craig Piner said the house was now uninhabitable, with a lot of water and smoke damage.

The fire travelled up the stairs and into the roof, which was destroyed, he said.

The family was visibly upset to come home after work to find their house burning.

The fire investigation was continuing today.

Stoke station officer Chris Watson said it took three hours to put out the fire because of the large number of hotspots that needed to be dampened.

Fire crews had to go into the house and turn over furniture to make sure the fire was out.

Fire investigators said the fire was not suspicious but may have started in the garage.

The family had lived there for a while and thankfully had insurance, he said.

"It is so unfortunate. They had obviously gone to work during the day and came home to find all their belongings perished.

"You have got to feel for the family. You can always replace some belongings but not the memories, not the photographs.

"You could almost liken it to losing a family member," he said.

Neighbour Lauren Sainty, who lives across the road from the house, said the smell of the fire prompted her to look outside.

At first she thought someone was burning rubbish but when she spotted the fire engines she knew it was bad.

"My daughter thought it was a barbecue but then we spotted smoke coming over the fence."

She saw the house owner return home to the burning house. She then saw another neighbour approach the owner and say "I tried to get in contact with you. I'm so sorry, your house is gone".

"I hope she has insurance because the house is completely gutted, it has absolutely had it."

Stoke deputy chief fire officer Tane Simpson, who was the leading officer at the time of the fire, said all people had been accounted for at very early stages of the operation.

Wind fanned the fire and the street was cordoned off.

Video: Graeme Heslop

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