Vasati Lopati tried desperately to beat out the flames leaping up her living room walls.
Her young nieces and nephew, staying for the school holidays, ran for their lives as she fought the fire that was beginning to lick at the ceiling of her home in the Porirua suburb of Cannons Creek on Thursday.
Lopati knew she would lose everything if she could not extinguish the fire, so she stayed inside until the windows began to explode.
Minutes later she joined her family on the footpath and watched as everything they owned was destroyed.
Husband Muaau was driving his taxi when he heard about the fire. “We’ve lost everything. We have nothing left now,” he said.
“It started in the living room but the only things in there were the computer and the TV, and they weren’t on.”
The couple, originally from Samoa, had lived in the house for four years and did not have contents insurance.
Muaau Lopati said he was grateful a smoke alarm had alerted his family to the fire so they could get out in time.
The couple are now appealing for help to replace their lost possessions.
“We have no clothes, no beds and the children have no shoes.”
The property’s owner, who did not want to be named, said the couple were “lovely, friendly” people who kept to themselves.
He had offered them another home, just up the road from the one that burned, but it was not perfect, he said.
“I was plastering it this morning when the fire happened. It isn’t ideal, but at least they have a roof over their heads.”
Fire Service central communications shift manager Murray Dunbar said four fire engines were sent to the Champion St property shortly before 9am. The blaze was extinguished about 90 minutes later.
Porirua fire investigator Russell Postlewaight believed the fire in the lounge may have been caused by electronics.
“The two ladies in the house were alerted by the working smoke alarm that happened to be at that end of the house, and they managed to escape uninjured.
“The severity of the fire in the lounge was so [strong] that, at that end of the house, it would have been unsurvivable.”
At one point, the fire got so bad that the officer in charge had called for a full second team to help.
Firefighters were particularly concerned about the heavy concrete tiles falling from the burning roof above.
About half the ceiling of the old timber house was burned.
– Stuff VIRGINIA FALLON AND JARED NICOLL