The man stood in borrowed shoes and yesterday’s clothes, and the woman sat wrapped in a blanket, crying, in a people-mover.
About 100 metres away, close enough to catch the faint whiff of smoke still pouring out of it, was their home.
The couple who lost everything on Wednesday morning in the Paekākāriki house fire have spoken about running through a maze of smoke and flames, and carrying their child to safety, on the Kāpiti Coast north of Wellington.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, spoke wrapped in a blanket, only a few hours after the fire in their two-storey, rimu weatherboard home on Wellington Rd at about 5am.
She said she “just heard something strange” that woke her from her sleep in a bedroom on the top storey of the house.
The woman looked out the front bedroom window and there were flames running up from the porch below.
She yelled out “fire” to her partner and grabbed their daughter.
“Then you opened the lounge door but you couldn’t get through the lounge, so we tried to go the kitchen but you couldn’t get through the kitchen so we went out the back door. By the time we were on the second level, the top was already alight,” she said.
Her partner stood nearby on the Beach Rd footpath, away from a tangle of fire hoses and fire service trucks dampening the smouldering remains,
The man said he felt sick. “It hasn’t really hit home yet either. I know I’m going to be numb for a long time.”
He said he helped get everyone outside and then tried to fight the flames with a garden house, but it was pointless.
Then the man saw the flames fanning out towards the wooden house next door, of a similar age, and he ran and pounded on their door.
“I said ‘you guys have got to get out, it’s heading your way’.”
He had never seen anything like the flames that engulfed his home.
“They were pushing me back. The garden hose: totally pointless. The heat from that fire was the most intense I’ve ever seen. It had a life of its own, it was a beast. I lost hope.”
They had lived in the house for about 12 years, and were close to completing an ongoing renovation.
“That’s one thing that hurts the most, it’s such a piece of history, and we’d just finished [renovating] the front room, as the final room.”
His mother and sister had arrived from Wainuiomata, bringing a pair of shoes for him so he at least had something to put on his feet.
“He’s wearing his brother-in-law’s shoes,” his mother said.
The man’s mother hugged him, crying. “Thank God you you all got out. I just thank God that everybody got out.”
The house was insured but not the contents, the man said. They did not know what caused the fire, but they had lost everything they owned.
The Paekākāriki village community was already rallying to help the family on Wednesday morning.
Kāpiti Coast deputy mayor Janet Holborow said the village would do anything it could to help the family, and they were shocked at the loss of the iconic weatherboard home.
“The family is devastated, they walked out with just the clothes they were wearing.”
She said a Givealittle page had already been set up and could be found by searching Paekakariki House Fire.
Emergency services were called just after 5am.
Volunteer firefighters from Paekākāriki Fire Station located just off Wellington Rd were the first on the scene just after 5am and nine fire trucks from across the region attended.
Fire investigators were on their way to the scene. It was unclear if the house had smoke alarms.