Screams from her terrified child brought a mother running from the other end of a house when fire engulfed the front of their Gisborne home yesterday.
The fire service sent two appliances to the De Lautour Road house at 12.10pm.
"The front bedroom of the villa-style house was well alight when we arrived," Senior Station Officer John Haggland said.
Witnesses said there were clouds of black smoke initially, then the front corner of the house erupted in a ball of flame.
Fire crews were able to quickly contain the blaze and stop it spreading to the rest of the house.
"The woman told us she had been cleaning in the kitchen when her three-year-old daughter started screaming up in the front bedroom," Mr Haggland said.
"She raced through the house, grabbed the girl and they got out of the house.
She did the right thing."
The mother, in her early 30s, was taken to hospital by St John Ambulance after suffering minor smoke inhalation. She was able to walk to the ambulance.
She left the burning house clutching her child, her purse and their pet kitten.
Her little girl was checked by St John staff, then picked up by relatives. The girl was later taken to the hospital for observation. It is believed both were discharged from hospital last night.
The woman is a solo parent with two other school-aged children.
"She told us she had no contents insurance," Mr Haggland said.
Her employer said the fire had come on top of personal tragedy for the woman, who lost her mother just over a month ago.
A relative and passers-by worked together to drag the woman's car away from the front of the house when it was threatened by flames.
The relative was the woman's cousin, Mike Kora, who was driving home for lunch when he saw the fire starting.
"I saw the black smoke and knew it was coming from my cousin's house," Mr Kora said.
"When I pulled up outside there were heaps of flames coming out of the house, and my cousin and her baby had got out of the house by that stage," he said.
"I saw the car could go up in flames so I tried to drag it back by hand, but the handbrake was on and I couldn't do it."
At that point, someone driving by in a four-wheel-drive vehicle stopped.
"They backed into the driveway. I attached a strop from their vehicle to the car and we dragged it clear of the flames.
"My cousin was quite shocked by what happened with the fire but at least she has got something out of it - her car. She has lost just about everything else."
The fire service is looking into the cause of the blaze, which Mr Haggland says started in the front bedroom.
Firefighters remained at the house for several hours to make sure the fire was completely out, removing part of the roof in the process.
- The Gisborne Herald