Fire at Huntly marae

Fire service investigates marae fire

A fire investigator will this morning attempt to uncover the cause of a blaze which has seriously damaged a large marae in the Waikato.

Several people including two families escaped unharmed from the Waahi Marae which caught alight at around midnight.

The building has been seriously damaged by the blaze.

Marae Secretary Moe-roa Devonshire says eight people were in the building at the time of the fire.

“Just thankfully nobody’s been hurt. Our immediate priority is to find accommodation for our whanau.”

Seven appliances fought the blaze.

Fire Communications Shift Manager Jaron Phillips says teams were at the scene shortly after.

“Seven appliances brought in from around the Waikato two of those were water tankers. One of the problems the fire fighters faced was a shortage of water so those tankers were brought in from Huntly and Te Kauwhata.”

A separate building near the marae has been badly smoke logged.

Read more:

Spirit saved us: Family

A family believes a spiritual presence saved their lives when their house was destroyed by fire at Waahi Marae in Huntly overnight.

Judy Wilson-Hetet, the daughter-in-law of the owner of the house, said her mother-in-law, who did not want to be named, was in a deep sleep when the fire started.

“My mother-in-law said It was like a spiritual being tapped her on the shoulder.

“Whoever that was really saved her life.”

Miss Wilson-Hetet said her mother-in-law quickly awoke her sister-in-law and brother-in-law and they awoke the family of four, including two school-aged children, who were asleep in a second house nearby which was also damaged.

A smoke alarm which had fallen off the “old” wall and had been sitting on a shelf did not go off, she said.

Miss Wilson-Hetet said the whanau gathered quickly and stood and watched as the fire department did an “excellent job” of stopping the fire from damaging more than the kitchen in the second house.

“I could fell a strange wairua presence around.

“There was a very emotional, airy feeling.”

Fire safety investigator Ross Fleet said it was “no question” that the fire was an accident.

“It appears it’s been caused by a table lamp, an electrical fire,” he said.

Marae trustee Huirama Matatahi said an emergency trustee meeting had been called for this afternoon.

“The safety of the family is paramount and we’re looking into ensuring they have somewhere safe for them to go to while we sort out this mess.”

Mr Matatahi said the Marae had insurance so he hoped everything would work out.

“People are struggling enough as it is at the moment, now we’ve got this to deal with.

“The family will pull through it together.”

Another occupant Tuata Haunui-Wirihana told One News that he was met with “massive flames” as he tried to open a door to get out.

“So I closed it and we shot around the other side of our house and ran straight down towards the river,” he said.

“It was pretty heart breaking to see your house like that.”

Fire Northern Communications shift manager Steve Phillips said it took almost 30 fire fighters to bring the blaze under control.

“By the time our guys arrived the house was well involved,” he said.

Five fire appliances and two tankers from Huntly, Te Kauwhata and Ngaruawahia took just over two hours to fight the fire which broke out just before midnight.

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