A GARAGE at a vacant Victoria Avenue property caught fire this morning.
Whakatane Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Malcolm Rowson said when firefighters arrived at the property at 7.20am, the fire was well involved.
Owner Neelam Sharma said she had owned the house for 10 years and while she originally had plans to renovate it, they had been put on hold for some years.
The fire meant she was not sure what the future of her property was.
The fire destroyed the garage.
One neighbour said the house, 9 Victoria Street, had been empty for about 14 years.
“A lot of homeless people sleep in there,” she said.
“We chase them away – it’s dangerous there.”
“An old man comes and mows the lawn every now and then.”
Another neighbour said while the house was empty, homeless people squatted in the garage.
“It’s so old – it just needs to come down. Kids go in there.”
Mrs Sharma said she was not aware of children or homeless people living in the shed.
Mr Rowson said from the brigade’s point of view, the fire was dealt with quickly.
He said there was no electricity in the garage. He said he did not know what caused the fire but that would be the subject of an investigation.