New Zealand – A fire that broke out overnight in the upper section of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga building in Raumanga in Whangarei has been brought under control.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, Northern Advocate has reported.

Fire investigators’ investigation of the cause of the blaze continued this morning, the paper said.

Siulolo Ahio, who lives at the house next to the church with her two children and husband who is the church’s minister, said she first discovered the fire when she could hear an unusual rattling sound from the church, the paper said.

“We heard rattles and we thought it was something from the downstairs storage room and I just wanted to check it out because the rattle was quite loud,” she said, according to the Advocate.

“I pulled the sliding door from our house and there I saw the flame, it was already engulfed.”

When the glass windows in the church exploded from the heat, Ahio immediately woke her mokopuna and evacuated the house.

The church, which normally saw about seven families to its weekly service, had not been in use since lockdown in March apart from some regular cleaning.

While she said the incident was quite distressing, Ahio thanked those from the community who had offered their support.

Community groups including The Fono, Whānau Ora, Fale Pasifika, Te Ora Hou and the local Raumanga kindergarten had all offered meat and other food for Ahio’s family and the wider church whānau.

“We appreciate all the phone calls and all the test messages we’ve been receiving, all the Facebook messages, we really appreciated that but we are safe.

“It’s been a overwhelming day but the amazing support from the community has been wonderful.”