Screaming could be heard while flames and smoke poured out of a Northland home which was severely damaged by fire.
Fire crews, ambulance and police were called to Raumanga Heights Drive, yesterday at 4.18pm after reports of a two-storey house fire in the Whangarei street which had been blocked off by emergency services following the blaze.
Fire Service assistant area commander Paul Ballantine said everyone inside the house was accounted for and they were being assessed by ambulance for smoke inhalation.
He said the house was "severely damaged" by the fire.
"On arrival the fire was quite serious and there were strong winds threatening neighbouring houses," he said.
Mr Ballantine said the cause of the blaze was being investigated late yesterday.
One neighbour who was at home at the time looked over and saw smoke "pouring out of the house".
"They were screaming and yelling, it was chaos. The kids were home and there was panic about getting the animals out," he said. "You could hear windows smashing."
The neighbour, who did not want to be named, called 111 immediately and said fire crews arrived within 10 minutes and managed to douse the flames within about 5 minutes. He believed the animals got out safely.
"At one point the smoke was black and thick. You couldn't see the house or the fire trucks," he said.
Another resident Julia Law has lived in the street for 15 to 16 years and said it was usually a pretty quiet neighbourhood.
"I'd just got home and I was talking to my husband when I heard these cracks which I thought was a whip or something. I was sitting in the lounge and when I went to the sun room and there was this funny smell," she said.
When Ms Law looked outside she could see "smoke everywhere".
"You couldn't even see the house at one stage it was black as can be. Earlier you could see flames and they were quite high. It was frightening," she said.
Mr Ballantine said it was a reminder for people to check their smoke alarms and ensure they were working.