Warning: This story contains distressing details that may disturb some readers.
Eleven cats have died in a fire in east Auckland.
Firefighters were called to the suburb of Golflands at 10:30am on Wednesday to what's understood to be a cat rescue centre.
After crews arrived, it quickly became a rescue operation for dozens of cats. Neighbours, the SPCA, and crews were able to save around 12 cats, but at least 11 died in the fire.
The blaze shook firefighters, who admit a situation like this is one they weren't really prepared for.
"We tend to wing it as we go and try to solve a multitude of problems we're not really designed to be trained for," says Howick Fire Station officer John Searle.
"This was very unusual because of the number of animals that were involved that we were having to save when we arrived."
The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen.
"There are many things we have to do in our job that are distressing, so yes we're now dealing with first-aid for people as well as animal rescues and things, so it's very distressing for the staff," Searle says.
The surviving cats have been taken to a vet in Pakuranga to be treated for smoke inhalation.
The SPCA says it'll support the owner in any way it can.
An investigation is underway into what exactly caused the fire.