A police officer is being hailed a hero after saving an elderly woman's life last night when her house was engulfed with flames.
A Tauranga police officer was driving past the Maranui St residence when he saw the single storey house engulfed with flames about 6.45pm.
The 53-year-old police officer ran to a ranchslider when he noticed an elderly woman coming towards him.
Inspector Clifford Paxton said as the woman tried to unlock the door she collapsed and fell backwards disappearing into the black smoke.
Mr Paxton said the police officer attempted to break the door but was unable to get access and instead smashed a side window and frame to gain access to the house.
Inside the house the police officer was unable to find the woman because of the thick black smoke.
When he started to struggle to breathe he was forced back outside to get fresh air.
"He then made a second attempt crawling through the house feeling his way along the floor trying to find the occupant. He ran his hand across the floor and located the female occupant and pulled her to the window."
The police officer was unable to get the female out of the window. When a second police officer arrived, together they were able to pull the woman from the house.
Mr Paxton said fire and ambulance staff arrived a short time later. The woman, a 77-year-old Mount Maunganui resident, was taken to Tauranga Hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. The police officer also was taken to hospital.
Tauranga fire senior station officer Mark Keller said they arrived at the Mount Maunganui residence to find one end of the home on fire.
"The bedroom was well involved in fire and there was extensive damage to the house."
Mr Keller said if it was not for the police officer driving past the house the woman's fate would have been different.
"She was struggling and had become disoriented with the smoke basically down to the floor."
Mr Keller said the elderly woman wasn't able to get out of the door and collapsed just at the police officer arrived.
"It was a very dangerous situation. It was at the point where she would have been overwhelmed with smoke and if he hadn't come to her aid it would have been a totally different outcome."
Mr Keller said two of the bedrooms in the home had been gutted by the fire and the rest of the house is damaged by smoke.
Dwane Scammell, 34, said he was driving past the Maranui St home when he noticed the police car parked outside the house in flames.
He got out of his vehicle when a bystander said there was a woman inside the home.
He jumped the fence to the property to help the police officers carry the elderly woman from the home.
"The smoke was pretty hard out, the smoke was so thick and black," Mr Scammell said.
Mr Scammell said the woman's bedroom was engulfed with fire "with the flames coming out of the roof".
Somehow the woman made it out of her bedroom to the front door where she had collapsed, he said.
The police officer was discharged later last night and the woman was in a stable condition but held for observation.
The cause of the fire was believed to be from an electrical appliance in the bedroom.