A family's dream of a fresh start in Waikato is in tatters today after a fire tore through their Otorohanga home - the day they were to move in.
The Van Wanrooy family had driven close to 500km from Paraparaumu, but on arriving at 796 Kawhia Rd, near Otorohanga, found fire had ripped through the guest quarters of the former bed and breakfast.
Last night, investigators confirmed the fire was suspicious.
A shocked Peter Van Wanrooy - who is wheelchair bound - was still coming to terms with their situation in the driveway yesterday evening.
"We're pretty gutted," he said. "Hell . . . you know . . . we've just left the house in Paraparaumu. The fire chief said it would be two to three months before it can be lived in because of smoke damage. In some ways, I'm glad that we weren't in here yesterday."
Nearby, wife Tania was trying to sort emergency accommodation - not just for them, and their son and mother-in-law, but for their three dogs and three cats.
The family's "dream home" had been on the market for a couple of years.
It was described in Harcourts sales literature as having a five-bedroom main wing with large open-plan kitchen and "views that you won't believe".
"The three-bedroom guest wing of the property with large kitchen, sliders out to an amazing deck and spa pool area".
This was in addition to the self contained unit.
The three-car garage, workshop and swimming pool were undamaged in the blaze.
Mr Van Wanrooy said the extended family decided to move north to be closer to family.
"We're sick and tired of the earthquakes down there and we're too close to a beach in case of a tidal wave.
"I was brought up on a farm and said to Tania that it'll be good for the boy."
Harcourts lifestyle and rural agent Don Pinney said the family was due to take possession of the house yesterday afternoon yet it had not been settled when the fire broke out.
He understood the previous owner had suffered a heart attack after hearing the news and was recovering in Auckland.
Mr Pinney said he "didn't have the foggiest" about insurance and liability at that stage of the deal.
Waikato fire safety officer Kevin Holmes said the cause of the fire was not known, but was being treated as suspicious.
Investigators were due to return to the scene today.
The fire started in a self-contained unit on a lower level of the house, the front of which was open to the front yard, Mr Holmes said.
Nobody was home at the time and the gate was bolted shut.
It was a passing motorist who first noticed smoke rising from the house just after midday.
He drove up the next driveway and met dairy farmer Tony Webber.
The pair jumped the fence to get a closer look and saw flames bursting out of the self-contained unit. Mr Webber bolted home and dialled 111.
Otorohanga Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Neville King was first at the scene around 1pm.
He said the flames were severe enough to request backup.
Three more appliances arrived from Te Awamutu and Te Kuiti, as well as two tankers.
Twenty firefighters took nearly an hour to get the blaze fully under control.
"I think we did a pretty good job to save the rest of the house," Mr King said.
- Waikato Times
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