A vacant house in Napier South was left badly damaged on Saturday after a fire, which started at the back, spread into the ceiling as well as the attached garage.
The fire was spotted by a neighbour a few houses away from the Vigor Brown St house about 2.35pm.
An elderly neighbour closer to the property said she had been in her shed clearing out rubbish when her friend next door ran in.
"She took me by the arm and said 'come with me'."
It was then she saw the billowing smoke.
"I hadn't heard anything or smelled smoke but when I saw it - oh, I was stunned."
Her friend took her to her house for a couple of hours until the drama had subsided.
It is understood the house, which is for sale, is owned by a couple who once lived there but now reside in Auckland.
Another neighbour said it had been empty for some time but he had heard it was about to be rented out.
"It won't be now," he said.
Four fire appliances turned out with one crew dampening down the walls of the neighbouring house.
Police and St John Ambulance also attended.
"There were fire trucks and official cars everywhere," the elderly woman said.
Fire crews quickly had the blaze under control and were at the scene of the blaze for more than an hour.
As well as fire damage to the rear of the house, there was extensive smoke damage throughout.
It was not immediately known how the fire had started.