Fire ruins mudbrick house

A Gimmerburn family has lost a part of their heritage, as well as an important aspect of their business, after fire gutted a historic house on their property.

Fifth-generation Gimmerburn farmer and property owner Steve Dougherty said the mudbrick house, built about 150 years ago, was part of the original homestead of the farm and had more recently been used for accommodation for his hunting safari business, Doctari Safaris.

He said he had 23 hunters, mostly from overseas, booked to stay in the house over the coming month but now with the house ''just gutted'', they might have to pitch tents instead.

As well, the house contained hunting trophies and ''old family memorabilia that you can't really replace''. There were even some moa bones and other things picked up from around the farm, ''just sentimental things, really''.

The Dougherty family was holidaying in Hawea when the fire broke out about 8.30pm on Tuesday.

They had left a friend in charge to watch over the place and Mr Dougherty said he was out feeding the animals when the fire started.

Though not injured by fire, the man was treated by St John ambulance staff after suffering from stress or shock, Ranfurly Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer James Hazlett said.

Mr Hazlett said the house was ''surrounded'' by trees, which was the brigade's main concern, given the dry conditions.

With three Ranfurly fire engines and another unit, plus crew, from the Naseby Volunteer Fire Brigade and a rural tanker attending, the trees were doused with flame retardant.

It took the brigades about three and a-half hours and 35,000 litres of water to douse the flames in the house.

Mr Hazlett said while the outside of the house was mudbrick, the inside was wooden and was destroyed.

Mr Dougherty said the house had been modified over the years and expanded to contain three bedrooms. Although he was unsure of the insurance status, ''my father insured it years ago and I think that has just continued'', he saidMr Hazlett thought an electrical fault had been the cause.

- sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz