A woman died and a man was injured when fire engulfed their East Coast home north of Ruatoria.
The woman is believed to be in her 50s but no name has been released.
By the time firefighters arrived just after 7pm last night, the Tikitiki house was well alight and "it was too late" to save the woman.
The deceased woman's husband was found outside their burning home, too distraught to talk, said Tairawhiti fire commander Charlie Turei.
"This confirmed to the firefighters that there was someone still in the house and they had to get inside. But the house was well alight from end-to-end by the time they arrived and it was too late."
Mr Turei said the couple's home was 2km north of Tikitiki on State Highway 35 and visible from the road.
A passing driver alerted the fire service by calling 111 at 7.09pm.
The husband, believed to be in his 50s, was taken to Te Puia Springs Hospital.
"It looks like he might have suffered some minor burns. He was distraught, so they took him there to care for him overnight."
A full response from East Coast fire brigades brought more than six trucks and tankers from Ruatoria, Tikitiki, Hicks Bay and Tolaga Bay.
An initial shortage of water hampered efforts to fight the fire as water tankers travelled to the scene from Tokomaru Bay, Ruatoria and Tolaga Bay.