A peaceful afternoon was shattered yesterday, when a woman ran from her Hastings home screaming for help minutes before it went up in flames.
When emergency services arrived just after 1pm, one unit of the semi-detached Hinau St house was "well involved".
Neighbours lined the street as crews from four appliances worked for about half an hour to contain the fire.
Two women were charged by police after trying to run back into the house.
A police spokesperson said the women were restrained by police who were concerned for their welfare, after they had refused to comply with police instructions and tried to run back inside.
One woman had attempted to assault the attending police officer. She was arrested and charged with obstruction and assault with intent to injure.
The second woman was also charged with obstruction.
Neighbours said the women had run back to the property to check no one was still inside.
Luckily, none of the three occupants home at the time of the fire - including a toddler - were injured although two women were checked for smoke inhalation by St John ambulance staff.
Neighbours reported hearing explosions, after the fire quickly spread through the Housing New Zealand property.
Just before 1pm, Hinau St resident Edna was hanging out her washing when she heard screaming from across the road.
"A lady came running out [of the house] yelling 'please help me, please help me, my house is on fire'."
Dropping her washing, Edna rang the fire service, before she and another neighbour went to the house to try to help the occupants.
Edna said at that stage the fire appeared to be small, and contained in the left side of the house. Within about three minutes the fire had spread, and the entire house was ablaze.
"It just exploded, the windows came out."
Edna said the neighbours in the adjoining house had been unaware of the fire until they heard screams from its occupants.
Hastings fire service senior station officer Dennis O'Leary said a firewall had prevented damage to the other unit, aside from some smoke in the ceiling.
Some residents spoke of hearing explosions, with one saying he could see smoke from the fire at their house a block away.
Their street was a "close-knit community", Edna said, and everyone would be affected by what had happened.