Doug and Vikki Pflaum spent the night hoping, but in the morning the worst news came.
Their house was among 11 homes destroyed by the four-day blaze that has charred large swathes of Christchurch's Port Hills black.
Thanks to a friend who phoned after seeing flames near their Worsleys Rd house, the couple had time to grab what they could - photos albums, framed pictures off the wall, Plunket books, crucial business files - before police rushed them out.
"If he hadn't made that call, I don't think I would have made it home in time to get stuff out," Mrs Pflaum said.
They kept vigil late into the night, watching their house through binoculars from a park.
Unable to get to the property this morning, Mr Pflaum got some bigger binoculars and looked across from Hackthorne Rd.
"It was quite clear that it's all gone," he said.
The house was still smoking. A digger arm protruded from where the roof should be.
In parts, the three-storey home was reduced to rubble a metre high, he said.
To the couple's relief, their neighbours' homes on either side looked to be spared. One belonged to a 96-year-old.
"Fires are just so unpredictable," Mrs Pflaum said. "We can start again."
They are already thinking of the things they will not get back. His parents' instruments. A hand-painted portrait of Mrs Pflaum on her wedding day.
"I think it's, sort of, in my head, not in my heart," Mr Pflaum said.
"A couple of neighbours saw their own being burnt this morning. Actually watching it would have been worse."
"When you think about what other people are going through, like [helicopter crash victim Steve Askin] parents', is 100 times worse than what we're going through," Mr Pflaum said.
"I really feel for the Askins and other people [who] have lost more."
The couple were staying with a son.
Mr Pflaum said he already planned to rebuild.
"I know good things come out of bad things. It's just a matter of carrying on," he said.
They had received countless messages of support, and offers of help and accommodation.
"I feel very loved," Mrs Pflaum said.