Fire and Emergency responded to the house fire in Aongatete at 11.32am on Monday. Photo / Supplied
A young family has “lost everything” after their home burnt to the ground on Monday.
Chanelle Midwood, 27, said she was grateful no one was at home when the blaze destroyed her rental property and all of her belongings.
“If we were there, if it was midnight, we’d have been gone, all of us.”
She lived with her six-year-old daughter Soraya and a flatmate in Aongatete in the Western Bay of Plenty.
“We as people and who we are – that’s not replaceable.”
Midwood told the Bay of Plenty Times she was at mahi (work) at an Ōmokoroa cafe when the fire happened.
“[I] was just making coffee and my phone just keep ringing and ringing.
“Then I just got a text message and it just said, ‘hun, your house is on fire!!”.
Midwood ran out the door and got in her car, screaming and crying as she called her whānau.
On her way home, Midwood said she was in “hysterics” as she heard “all the sirens going off in Ōmokoroa”.
“By the time I got there, they had already put it out and it was just already burnt to the ground – just endless smoke.
“Basically, everything is unsalvageable.”
Midwood said she and Soraya moved into the house in February and her daughter was “devastated” after the fire.
“She had the most beautiful bedroom… She knew Mama worked really hard for everything we had.”
Midwood said it was “devastating” to lose sentimental things such as important taonga.
“I feel really disassociated, like it just still doesn’t feel real but I feel grateful that I’m alive, my baby is alive, my flatmate, everyone is in one piece.”
Midwood is now staying with whānau
“You’re so completely vulnerable so you have no choice but to accept all the awhi [care] because it’s like everyone wants to help. And I think that’s the silver lining as well – the power of community and just the strength that it’s given me.”
She had also received some donations from the community – “just beautiful kākahu [clothing] for my daughter and myself, and kai and some linen and toys for my girl and art supplies.”
There were also packages of “goodies,” vouchers and one woman also dropped off a TV, she said.
Midwood said she was sharing everything with her flatmate.
“We all lost everything together so it’s just about sticking together.”
She thanked the firefighters, her neighbours, her community, her friends and whānau.
“We’ll definitely have a whare soon hopefully.”
Neighbour Russell Hay said he lived about 200 metres away from Midwood.
“I just came down my drive and saw a whole lot of smoke and I thought it was coming from a weird place.
“So I went and investigated and I could see smoke and a bit of fire inside the house.
“At the time, no windows had broken. The house was just full of smoke. And then windows broke and then it just disappeared basically.”
Hay said he called the fire brigade, which showed up about 10 minutes later.
Fire and Emergency community risk manager John Sutton said crews responded to a “well-involved house fire” in Aongatete at 11.32am on Monday.
Three fire trucks, one operational support unit and a fire investigator attended the scene.
Sutton said the investigation into the cause of the fire had been completed and was classified as “undetermined”.
“The likely cause was electrical,” he said.
“This is a timely reminder for residents to have working smoke alarms and an escape plan. In a real house fire, you have less than three minutes to escape your house.”
Fire and Emergency investigator Terry Jordan said the house was “so badly damaged” that it would not be possible to positively identify the cause.
The house was “completely destroyed,” he said.
“A lot of the floor had been burnt away, the majority of the framing had been burnt away, the roof had collapsed in.
“I would say that it had been burning for some considerable time before it was noted.”
Barfoot and Thompson Tauranga office manager Raewyn Stanaway said the property owners were going through the insurance process.
Midwood’s whānau have set up a Givealittle page for anyone who wishes to donate.