Wed, Jan 12, 2022 5:00 PM

Family loses all in blaze

All that’s left of a family home in Lake Rotoroa after a house fire. Photo: Supplied.

Jenny Nicholson

A house fire in the Lake Rotoroa village has left a family of nine with just the clothes on their back and the bikes some had been riding when the blaze broke out.

Just six weeks after shifting into their house, the family has lost all their belongings. The only thing to survive was their van which someone pushed out of the driveway.

Robert and Rebecca Ifopo bought the home just over three years ago. At the time they were living in a house attached to the church that Robert was pastoring at.

The house at the lake was used for a retreat for those needing a break from the stresses of life, at no charge to those who stayed there.

Now the generosity of the family is being returned with local communities rallying around and donations being dropped off from Wakefield, Tapawera, Lake Rotoiti and Murchison.

“It was good to have a change of clothes,” says Robert. “Rebecca and the children were helping in the wool shed and only had the clothes on their backs.”

He says the family are very grateful to the community.

“People have been coming with donations and a lot of the essentials,” he says. “We are so grateful to have had food given to us.”

One local who had helped with donations says the response was “pretty standard” in the Murchison community.

“There is example after example of people helping with money, with their hands or with their services.”

Losing their photos has been hard for the Ifopo family.

“Our whole life history and memories from the last 18 years have gone, that’s the hard bit.”

The family practice and play music together but have lost all their musical instruments.

“We had a piano, electronic drum set, violin, trumpet, they are all gone.”

He is now working as a builder/farmhand and had all his tools in the garage, and has lost those, too.

“We had planned to set up a woodwork shop for the kids to use,” he says. “We were in the process, but it’s all gone.”

He says they are very thankful no-one was home, and they are now working to get back into a routine. The children are still emotionally processing what has happened and what they have lost.

FENZ shift manager Lyn Crosson says a call came in regarding a house fire just before 10.40am on Tuesday 4 January. Crews from Murchison, Lake Rotoiti, Tapawera and Richmond were dispatched, along with a Nelson command unit.

“It was upgraded so quickly because of the distance to travel,” Lyn says. “If it was serious then it would have been a big wait for further resources if they were not already dispatched.”

She says, on arrival the firefighters found the house basically razed to the ground. They spent quite some time dampening it down.

Suzzi Lankshear, one of the firefighters who responded to the blaze, has organised donations of food and toiletries. She has had a constant stream of items arriving at her place.

“It is a feel-good feeling seeing all the communities coming together.”

Now that the immediate essentials have been covered, Suzzi says people who would like to contribute can donate to a Givealittle page that St Arnaud Rural Women have set up. On Monday morning more than $20,000 had been given.

Find the givealittle page here.