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North Island-born Christine Tucker said she and her husband were asleep when neighbours alerted the household to a blaze taking hold in their nearby shed, about 10pm.
She and her husband moved into the rural cottage in Summerhill Rd, just outside Kaitangata, with their daughter, son-in-law and 11-month-old granddaughter only a month ago.
Mrs Tucker said had it not been for her neighbours’ quick action, what was a "disaster" for her family could quickly have turned into a tragedy.
"My husband and I were out cold, and my daughter was busy putting our granddaughter to sleep.
"Thank goodness our neighbours spotted it, because it was just so quick once it took hold. If it were a bit more windy, this old place [the cottage] would have gone ‘poof’, Mrs Tucker said.
"It doesn’t bear thinking about."
She praised firefighters for their efforts in saving her home.
"Unfortunately, all my daughter’s and son-in-law’s belongings were stored in the shed while they look for a place to live, so that’s all gone. But we’re grateful to be here.
"We still have each other."
The belongings were not insured.
Mrs Tucker said she believed the fire was suspicious, and appealed to members of the community to come forward with any information.
"The fire investigator has been here today, and it looks like there was a suspicious point of ignition.
"It would be easy to be put off and say, ‘welcome to Kaitangata’, but it’s actually a lovely spot here.
"You can get stupid people anywhere."
Kaitangata fire chief Kevin Sutton said his brigade and the Balclutha and Milton brigades were summoned to the incident about 10pm on Sunday.
The Milton brigade was turned back after an initial assessment was made, and crews had the blaze quelled by 11.30pm.
He could not yet confirm whether the fire was suspicious.
"This is an unfortunate incident where a shed-cum-garage has been totally destroyed, including a number of stored personal belongings.
"Luckily, the home was unscathed and the occupants unharmed, but police have been contacted and our fire investigator will continue to look into matters."