An elderly man trying to extinguish a burning garage after a battery exploded had to be ordered off the property by a Whangarei policeman.

Both the officer and the man in his 80s were taken in the same ambulance to Whangarei Hospital suffering smoke inhalation following the fire at a Paramount Pde house in Tikipunga about 3pm on Thursday.

Senior Constable Ian Anderson was released from hospital a few hours later but the elderly man, who was initially in the intensive care unit, remained on a ward yesterday in a stable and improving condition.

It was one of three house fires in Whangarei within a 12-hour period. In one a dog died but her three puppies were saved.

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The third blaze is considered suspicious.

Fire investigator Craig Bain said a battery was charging in the Paramount Pde garage when a ruptured cell caused the battery to explode, firing hot metal around and sparking multiple fires in the garage. The elderly man heard the bang. He went to investigate and started dousing the fire with a garden hose. The constable was down the road, checking a school crossing at Totara Grove School when he noticed the smoke.

"There were already people there helping but I went in to help the owner who had gone back in with a garden hose," Mr Anderson said.

"He was trying to put it out but there was plenty of flames and smoke coming out from everywhere. He had a fair portion of it out when the fire guys turned up."

The man was coughing and finding it difficult to breathe when Mr Anderson managed to get him to leave.

Firefighters from Whangarei who were called to the Tikipunga fire had just finished a callout to a Silverstream Rd house, near Maunu, where an unattended pot on the stove had filled a property with smoke about 1.45pm on Thursday.

A neighbour raised the alarm and, when firefighters arrived, they entered the house using breathing apparatus. Inside they found a Yorkshire terrier and her three puppies, about two weeks old.

The dog was taken to SPCA and then a vet but died yesterday. The house was extensively smoke damaged.

And in a third fire about 1am yesterday firefighters, then police, were called to a fire in Clotworthy Cres in Onerahi, which is being treated as suspicious. The fire started on the ground floor of the vacant house and burned up through the ceiling causing significant damage.

Anyone who noticed suspicious activity should call Whangarei police on 09 430 4500 or anonymously on 0800 Crimestoppers, 0800 555 111.