Prominent refugee advocate Kaileshan Thanabalasingham is in a critical condition at Middlemore Hospital after surving a house fire that claimed the lives of three family members.
A five-year-old boy and two women aged 66 and 39 have been identified as the victims of an early morning house fire in the south Auckland suburb of Flat Bush.
The victims are believed to be Mr Thanabalasingham's son, wife and mother-in-law.
A neighbour has told of seeing a young girl stumble her way out of the house in the early hours of the morning, telling firefighters there were others still inside.
Three people were rescued from the blaze: Mr Thanabalasingham and a young girl and an elderly man, both of whom are in a stable condition.
Detective Inspector Gary Lendrum said police do not believe the fire was suspicous, but they are still investigating.
Another resident on the street says it's a "tragedy for the community".
Faisal Raisool has lived on Plantation Ave in the suburb of Flat Bush with his family since 2007.
Mr Raisool said the house had been recently sold, so the family wasn't very well known on the street.
"It was really scary, it's not a nice thing just days out from Christmas."
He says the fire caused chaos on the street.
"There was a lot of smoke, sirens, the fire brigade and police were there...The building wasn't visible through the thick, black smoke."
Neighbours described hearing windows at the property popping and exploding.
One thought the glow from the windows was Christmas lights, until she noticed flames several metres high.
Fire crews arrived at the house at around 3:30am. Assistant area commander Dave Woon said "the house was fully engulfed in fire" when they arrived.
He says the number of people inside the house made it difficult to reach everyone.
"It's a tragic situation, especially at this time of the year," he said.