Family makes new life after Ngaruawahia fire

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014
Phillippa Edwards
CHRIS HILOCK/Fairfax NZ
NEW START: Phillippa Edwards with her husband, Horomona, at their new home in Hamilton.

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Three months ago Phillippa Edwards and her family were left with little more than the clothes on their back after their Ngaruawahia house was gutted by fire.

The single-storey home, perched on top of a hill to the east of the town, was reduced to a shell.

The family lost photos, videos and heirlooms - but they were all safe and they have now put down roots in Hamilton.

When the Waikato Times visited this week, Mrs Edwards - sitting at the dining table with her husband, Horomona - said the family had settled into their new home and life in Hamilton.

Her workplace was not far away and the children's schools were nearby.

It was convenient, Mrs Edwards said, although they were still getting used to having neighbours over the back fence.

It is a far cry from the days of hurt and uncertainty that followed the fire.

The blaze, which started when a pot of fat - ready to cook chips - was left unattended, took everything from the Edwards.

The ferocity of the fire smashed out the windows of the house and the guttering was left twisted and hanging off the roof.

Fortunately Mr Edwards, his two grandchildren and the couple's three children were outside.

It took about 20 firefighters 40 minutes to bring the fire under control but afterwards all that was left inside the house were mounds of black, sodden ash.

For the first three weeks after the blaze, the family lived between a couple of motels while they started negotiations with their insurance company.

"It was very stressful," Mrs Edwards said.

"We didn't know what was going to happen."

There was support from whanau and friends, the Ngaruawahia Lions Club, their former landlord and Mrs Edwards' colleagues.

The Kanuka Rd and Driver Rd community - where the family's old rental was - chipped in too.

But it was a struggle at times.

At first, the family survived off an accommodation allowance paid by their insurance company.

"We were a bit short on cash because the kids needed stuff for school and most of our money went into that and feeding them."

But dwindling finances and the push to settle up soon forced the family to take what was offered by the insurance company, Mrs Edwards said.

They then moved out of a motel and into an apartment. But it wasn't permanent and the family were still in limbo - looking for a bigger place that they could call home.

Mrs Edwards said her main concern at the time was looking after the children, who were "resilient" and a big support to her and Horomona.

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"I wanted to keep it as normal a life as possible," she said. At the beginning of December they moved into their new home in Dinsdale.

Both Mrs Edwards and her husband said they missed the freedom and space of the country.

"We had a piece of land," Mr Edwards said, quietly and wistfully.

The hardest things to lose, however, were the family photos, videos and family heirlooms, Mrs Edwards said.

But they are trying to put it all behind them.

"You've got to move on," Mrs Edwards said. "We'll never forget it . . . but we'll definitely move on."

- Waikato Times

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