Anguish at fatal fire in Hokitika

CORDONED: A man's body has been found inside a burning shed in Hokitika.
CORDONED: A man's body has been found inside a burning shed in Hokitika.

A West Coast woman is devastated her neighbour has perished despite her desperate efforts to fight a huge shed fire with a garden hose near Hokitika early this morning.

Volunteer fire fighters discovered a body after the 4.20am fire in a shed at the rear of  the Kaniere home, about 2km inland from Hokitika.

The neighbour, who declined to be named, said she woke to hear loud cracking noises and was about to look outside when her distraught neighbour knocked on her window.

She begged for help, saying she feared her partner, a man in his mid-20s and the father of their two young daughters, was trapped in the blazing shed.

"I jumped the fence with the hose but it was too big for that... The flames were huge.

"It went up so quick," the neighbour said.

"I yelled and yelled for him but I couldn't go in it.

"I feel devastated. You do what you have to do and then it hits you. I'm really sorry  for them. It's unbelievable.''

She said the man had been out with a friend last night and initially, his partner thought both could have been trapped in the shed or had gone to the other man's home.

"We didn't know if he was in there or not. We were really hoping he wasn't."

After the fire fighters arrived, the neighbour said she went around to the friend's  house nearby to check where they were.

The friend was safe at home but confirmed the neighbour was in the shed.

"I was hoping when I was going around there (my neighbour) was at his place.''

The Fire Service's West Coast area commander, Mark Boere, said it was the first fatal fire on the West Coast in at least five years, since he had been in the position.

Fire investigators would check the scene for the fire's cause and origin.

West Coast police confirmed one person died in the fire and were investigating.

The body was yet to be recovered by mid-morning and formally identified.

"At this stage no further information on the cause of the fire or the name of the deceased is available."

The Press