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The distraught owner of a Greymouth house gutted by fire yesterday has lost everything.
The homeowner, who did not want to be named, spent last night with friends. She said today she was "okay" but had lost all her belongings in the Weenink Road blaze.
A neighbour said the victim did not even have time to grab a jacket when she raced from her burning home and "was very worried about her two cats".
The Greymouth Volunteer Fire Brigade, backed up by Cobden and Brunner, was called just after 4pm after a police officer driving along the state highway at Karoro saw smoke billowing from the house.
Smoke enveloped the neighbourhood and main road, spreading downhill to the Karoro School and reaching as far as Nelson Street, as police directed motorists through the smokey haze.
Chief fire officer Lee Swinburn said the house was "totally involved" in fire when the brigade arrived.
"There were four pumps at the scene and we had 25 firemen on the ground fighting the fire," Mr Swinburn said.
He believed the fire may have started in the downstairs garage, before spreading to the upstairs living area and into the ceiling cavities.
"A couple living next door to the burning house were evacuated for a short time due to the large amount of smoke and the proximity of their home."
Water was sprayed on the neighbouring house to prevent it from catching fire.
"That was a success and the next door neighbour's property was not damaged at all - that was a good save."
Fire Service West Coast fire safety officer Dan Green, who is investigating the cause of the fire, said today he was working back from the least burned area to establish the source of ignition.
It probably started in the garage, as that was where the most intense burning was, he said.
"The fire was so intense you could feel the heat from the road, which is about 30 or so metres away."
Mr Green said one reason there was so much smoke billowing from the flames was because of the wood and coal in the garage.
Firefighters were called back to the property this morning to dampen down hot spots that had flared up in the ceiling cavity.
- Viv Logie of the Greymouth Star