THE sickeningly sweet smell of smoke greeted the Buitron family when they returned to their fire-ravaged home last Wednesday.
The family of five had lived there for two years after arriving in the country as refugees from Colombia three years ago.
An electrical fault in their kitchen stove sparked the fire last Tuesday morning.
Luisa Buitron said, through a translator, all that mattered was their children were safe.
“We initially thought it was small but now realise the full extent.”
No-one was home when their rental home ignited and her daughter’s cat was found safe and sound later in the day.
Smoke-stained external paint above windows, glass and pottery was broken and the kitchen roof was burnt.
Pain was evident in the family’s faces as they viewed the damage from outside, and they looked to each other for comfort.
They were not able to enter the Queens Dr, Invercargill, home to look for any surviving personal items such as photos.
Red Cross volunteer and Mar Colombia vice-president Jo Ussher said the home, owned by her friends, sustained 70% fire damage and 100% smoke and water damage.
“Nothing is salvageable.”
The family’s focus was now on finding suitable accommodation.
While their rent had been suspended, it had proved difficult finding somewhere they could afford the bond.
In the meantime, the Buitrons were staying with family members.