A FAMILY’S fox terrier ran 500 metres down a hill to alert neighbours that the family home was on fire while everyone was out on Sunday afternoon.
Ken and Kirsty Shaw’s 1946 homestead on Elmore Station in Rakauroa Road near Matawai was completely destroyed by the fire.
The family have lost everything except for some documents and computers saved by a quick-thinking neighbour.
It is believed the fire was caused by an electrical fault and started about 4.30pm while the whole family was out.
It started in their daughter Sam’s bedroom and Mrs Shaw said the “sobering fact” was that the outcome could have been quite different.
Sam Shaw says she is a deep sleeper and even though there is a fire alarm in the hallway outside her door, her mum says she might not be here today if the fire had started at night.
The family have lived in the homestead since 2001 and it was home to the couple and their two daughters Sam and Ana, and Ana’s partner Jono Zalumus.
They were all working on the dairy farm next door when the fire broke out and they heard the Matawai fire siren.
The family’s 10-year-old fox terrier Lily ran 500 metres down to the neighbour’s house and alerted them to the fire by “going beserk” at their back door.
Neighbour James Robertson looked up the hill and saw smoke.
His wife dialled the volunteer fire brigade while he ran up to the house and arrived to find the paint on one of the inside doors blistering from the heat.
He kept the door closed and rushed to the family’s office, where the top three things on his mind to try to save were photos, laptops and documents.
Mrs Shaw said by the time the family arrived home, their family and friends were all there, running in to move as much as they could outside before they were prevented from doing more by the smoke.
The family are very grateful for this.
The small farming community of Matawai has rallied around with about seven offers of accommodation in just two days.
“When something like this happens and you live in a little community like this, it is very humbling.
“It’s really easy to give — I love giving — but it’s really hard to receive.
“It’s all a bit of a fuzz at the moment.”
Wearing borrowed clothes, Mrs Shaw said they were grateful for the small things in life right now — like finding her handbag in the car.
The Shaws were fully insured but it could be three months at the earliest until claims can be paid out.
The family are living in a one-bedroom shearers quarters on their property and taking things one step at a time.
While the fire has changed their living conditions, work on the sheep and beef farm continues and the family have already been out mustering their ewes.
Their sense of humour has also stayed intact and when people turn up to visit, they ask them if they are there for the open home.
The neighbour’s son videod the event and it shows that it took only four minutes from the first signs of smoke until the whole house was engulfed by flames.
Mrs Shaw said the support had been “very humbling” and the family’s thanks go out to everyone — the community, their family and friends, and the firefighters who are all volunteers.
Fire trucks from Whatatutu, Patutahi and Matawai all attended, as well as two water tankers and St John ambulance.