A Flaxmere house was gutted by fire on Saturday while the occupants were outside taking delivery of firewood.
A neighbour said his wife called 111 after seeing smoke rising from the house at 2.44pm.
"We heard a truck dumping wood and then it was just straight after that," he said.
"We just chucked our hose over there and stayed until the fire brigade came.
"We couldn't see anything - the house was too smoky."
Hastings firefighters said the house was well ablaze when they arrived. Two fire units put the fire out and firefighters spent nearly five hours at the scene.
The occupants - a couple and their great-grandchildren - took refuge with a nearby family, the couple's grandson said.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.