The historic Pauatahanui General Store – built in 1861 – has been badly damaged by fire.Firefighters were called to the blaze on Paekakariki Hill Rd about 11.30am yesterday.
Porirua senior station officer Barry Murphy said the fire started in a deep frying vat in the back of the building and spread through the ceiling.
It took firefighters about 40 minutes to bring the blaze under control and a further two hours before the fire was totally out.
‘‘There’s a bit of fire damage and the kitchen area is pretty well destroyed,’’ Mr Murphy said.
The tenants of the building were visibly upset and declined to comment.
Diane Boyack, owner of nearby Rural Trading Post said she spotted the smoke and called the fire brigade.
‘‘At first it looked like normal cooking smoke, but I thought it was weird because I know the lady there doesn’t normally cook in the morning,’’ she said.
‘‘Then I could smell the burning fat and I knew something was on fire.’’
She said the tenants were very upset about the fire and in shock, but the community would support them and help them through.
‘‘It’s tragic. It’s been so great to see everyone come down to offer to help them.
‘‘I have a list of people’s names and numbers who just want to know if they can do anything to help the family. We support each other. When they re-open I’ll be over to get my milk.’’
Revvy Love, worker at the neighbouring GroundUp Cafe, ran to the store with a colleague to try and help put out the fire.
‘‘We went over with fire extinguishers,’’ he said. ‘‘When we got there it was thick with smoke and you couldn’t see much at all.
‘‘We tried to spray the bottom of it, but it didn’t help that much. It was already well on fire. It was so thick with smoke we started choking as well so we left.’’
Owner of neighbouring GroundUp Cafe, Darryl Ellis said he was thankful the fire did not spread into his building.
‘‘It was a northerly wind, so the fire was blowing right towards us. We’re just very lucky there was no damage.’’
Police closed the road between Paremata Haywards Rd and Grays Rd until 3pm to assist the fire service.
A fire safety officer will investigate the blaze.