Residents of a close-knit Hastings street pried open a garage door to save a man whose home was engulfed in flames.

Neighbours of a man who lived in a Ferguson St, Akina, unit rushed to his aid after an early wakeup call from smoke alarms and breaking glass as the property caught alight about 5am on Saturday.

Two Hastings fire crews were sent to the middle unit in a block of four and spent two-and-a-half hours battling the large fire which started in the kitchen.

Fire and Emergency Hastings station officer Michael Manning said the fire had been caused by unattended cooking and the kitchen and lounge were extensively damaged.

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"The person was very lucky to have escaped with their life."

People needed to remember to "keep looking while they are cooking" and to never cook while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, he said.

"It's a recipe for disaster."

Fire crews did an extremely good job at containing the fire by going through the front of the unit and through the roof ensuring the blaze was cut off and the other units were not damaged, Manning said.

The occupants of the three other units were evacuated as a precaution.

The single occupant of the unit was alerted to the flames by neighbours banging on his windows and assisting him out.

Diane Terekia said she woke to the sound of someone yelling "fire" and saw flames coming from the unit next door.

The way the wind was blowing it looked as if the fire would reach her unit too but her property was lucky to receive only some smoke damage.

"It's horrible when you are standing there and thinking your house is going to go up in flames."

She and a few other neighbours rushed to the unit and started trying to wake the occupant.

"We were just all banging on the windows trying to get him up."

They eventually heard a noise by the garage door and managed to pry it open where they found the man lying on the floor.

"We got to him and managed to pull him out.

"He was lucky, he was really lucky.

"He had the sense to go to the garage, it was obvious he couldn't have escaped through the kitchen or sitting room because of the fire. The only way out was through the garage."

All the neighbours in the street were close and had rallied round to support the man, she said.

"It's amazing how everyone works together."

Another neighbour, Noel Pulford, who was the one who opened the garage door, said about eight neighbours rushed to the flat to help the man out.

"It was a horrible event but we all worked together as a team and we were able to get him out safely."

The occupant was badly shaken but was slowly getting better, he said.

Pulford said his daughter was the first in his house to wake to the noise of smoke alarms and breaking glass.

"It's so important to have had those smoke alarms."

There were also a couple of people walking to work who saw the flames and roused other neighbours.

One of the neighbours was a nurse and helped the occupant before he was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.