Community rallies round fire-stricken family

Family have gathered to support the couple who lost most of what they owned in an East Coast house fire at the weekend, and moves are under way to get them into a new home.

Russell Wilson and his partner's rental cottage on a property alongside State Highway 2, just south of Te Karaka, burned to the ground on Saturday night.

Firemen believe the cause was an electrical fault near the stove, possibly caused by rodents.

Mr Wilson was home when the fire started but could do nothing to stop it and had to get out of the cottage in a hurry because of the fire's rapid spread.

"Russell was extremely lucky," said his father Ross Wilson.

"It was an old place and it burned very quickly."

His son's partner had taken their grandchildren, aged 2 and 5, with her to get groceries in Te Karaka.

"It was fortunate that she had the children with her when that fire started," Mr Wilson said.

"They were insured, so it looks as if everything is going to work out OK.

"The family have been looking around for a new home for them and hopefully something will turn up soon," he said.

Meanwhile, the couple has been temporarily accommodated at a city motel.

"I was in the lounge watching TV when the fire started," Russell Wilson said.

"I heard a loud bang from the kitchen, then saw black smoke coming from there.

"I ran into the kitchen and the whole roof was just alive with flame," he said.

"Our garden hose was in the washhouse on the other side of the flames and I could not get to it.

"So I closed some doors to try to contain the fire, and ran back into the lounge to get my cellphone to call 111."

Shortly after that he had to leave the house because of the speed with which the fire spread.

"It was only 10 to 15 minutes later that our home was pretty much totally destroyed."

His partner was in Te Karaka when she heard the fire siren go off.

"My granddaughter was in tears in the ute as they drove up the driveway after coming back with the groceries.

"The windows were blowing out at that stage."

It is the second time the impact of a house fire has struck the family.

Russell Wilson's son lost everything to a house fire in Gisborne two years ago.

His son went back into the lounge of the blazing house to rescue his sleeping daughter in that fire.

"The fire on Saturday at our place brought back bad memories for my granddaughter."

Mr Wilson said the assessment process was being worked through with the insurance company.

"But we are hoping our insurers will come to the party.

"The only thing we have left are the clothes we had on our backs at the time of the fire," he said.

Mr Wilson said they hoped to get another farm cottage to rent.

"We would really appreciate hearing from anyone who might have one vacant."

They can be contacted through his parents in Ormond Valley Road.

- By Murray Robertson of The Gisborne Herald

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