Former Gloriavale family loses everything in West Coast fire after lightning strike

A family of eight that recently left Gloriavale has lost everything after the house they were staying in was hit by lightning and burst into flames.

The farmhouse at Inchbonnie, near Lake Brunner on the South Island’s West Coast, burnt to the ground on Saturday morning.

The family, with five children aged between 2 and 11 years, had been living in the house for about two months working as farmhands, when the fire broke out.

Everyone except the father and one of the children were in the house at the time and escaped unscathed.

The wider Moana community has rallied together with donations, including cutlery, toys and furniture, pouring in to help them start over again.

The family has a sixth child on the way,

The house has been left extensively damaged, with only the garage remaining intact.

Firefighters have pinpointed the cause of the blaze down to lightning.

The West Coast was battered by a severe electrical storm on the weekend, with MetService recording lightning directly striking the region 1,800 times on Saturday.

Fire crews were alerted to the fire on Kumara-Inchbonnie Rd at 9.30am.

Firefighters from Moana and Kumara volunteer fire brigades remained on site for about three hours battling the blaze.

“We are putting it down to a lightning strike because we had a huge amount of lightning in the area. A neighbour came over and said he saw the lightning strike the end of the house or the ground very close to the house,” Moana chief fire officer Dave Larkin said.

From what crews can ascertain, the fire began in the lounge and living room area.
“It’s bulldozer material, it’s totally destroyed,” Larkin said.

Farmer Matt Donehue, who leases the property, said within 10 minutes of the lightning strike, the house was fully ablaze.

He said the family has been shaken up by the ordeal but were holding up well.

They have since been moved to a second property located on a farm close by.

Donehue, who spoke to the NZ Herald on behalf of the family, said the family wished to thank the community for its support.

“When they came out of Gloriavale, they didn’t have many possessions at the start. It’s probably been the hardest thing for them to suddenly get these possessions and then have them taken away again”.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help them financially.

To support the family, visit the Givealittle page.

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