A leaking gas heater burst into flames at a Pillans Rd home last night, shattering windows and destroying an upstairs lounge as concerned motorists on Chapel St could only watch and call 111.
Tauranga firefighters were called to the fire at 5.35pm after a number of calls and could see the fire burning "vigorously" as they made their way across the Chapel St causeway.
A woman living at the house, who did not want to be identified, said the heater was in the upstairs lounge and burst into flames when her father went to ignite it.
"He just turned it on, next minute it was just in flames."
The man picked up the heater to move it outside but the flames grew larger and became overwhelming. He kicked the heater outside on to a balcony and up against a glass ranch slider.
The heat from the fire soon shattered the door and flames spread inside to set a couch and curtains alight.
The woman said she and her father managed to call 111 and get out of the house unhurt.
Neighbour and former Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson said he could hear windows smashing shortly before the woman called him to let him know what had happened. "It was breaking windows and everything. It went through the balcony, behind the wall and into the house itself. Another couple of minutes and it would have been toast."
Three fire appliances and a St John ambulance responded, blocking off the road while they dealt with the fire.
A Tauranga crew donned breathing devices to enter the house and extinguish the fire.
Tauranga station officer Phil Price said the fire started through a leak in the gas pipe connecting the LPG tank to the heater's ignition switch. Although the upstairs lounge area had extensive damage, the house was saved because the residents closed the door when they left, Mr Price said.