A fire started by a 4-year-old playing with a lighter which slipped out of his father's pocket cost a Hamilton family its house and most of its possessions.

Four fire engines and 20 firefighters fought the blaze at a Montgomery St house in Bader which caught fire just after 1pm on Sunday.

Jules Matika-Campbell was looking after his 3, 4 and 6 year-old sons and had just finished cooking the oldest boy pot noodles for a snack.

He went into the lounge and was texting on his phone.

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The stay-at-home dad thinks his lighter must have slipped out of his pocket when he sat down and his 4-year-old took it to his bedroom and started playing with it.

The preschooler then burst into the lounge saying, "Dad the room is on fire".

"I didn't click what he said until the fire alarm went off."

Matika-Campbell ran down to the room and saw the mattress on fire.

He told the young boys to go outside and grabbed the kettle full of water from the kitchen.

The water did not put it out so he unsuccessfully tried to smother it with a blanket.

The fire spread to the curtains and by the time he returned with a pot full of water smoke was pouring out the door.

"After that I ran back down to the sitting room and grabbed the TV, wallet and phone."

He ran to where his sons were waiting at the back of the house and walked them to a friend's house who lived close by. They were all overwhelmed and in shock and were given blankets to warm up.

Matika-Campbell and his sons were later taken to hospital for a check-up as he had inhaled a lot of smoke, but were discharged shortly after.

The Housing New Zealand house which they have lived in for about a year is a burned-out shell and most of their possessions including baby gear his pregnant stepdaughter had been storing there were lost in the blaze.

Even the TV Matika-Campbell had salvaged from the fire and stored in the shed while he went to the hospital had disappeared when he returned.

The family is staying with Matika-Campbell's parents in Ngaruawahia tonight, but are hoping to move into another house on the same street by the end of the week.

Matika-Campbell said they had been blown away by the community's generosity.

His step-daughter Heaven-Lee June Rounds put a message on Hamilton - Pay it Forward Facebook page asking for donations of toys, clothes, furniture and school bags earlier today and had already received goods.

Matika-Campbell went to see his son's principal at Melville Primary to explain what had happened and the school had offered to buy him a school uniform.

He joked that the 4-year-old was his "little trouble-maker", but then acknowledged boys at that age were renown for getting up to mischief.

And while they may have lost their home in a fire, Matika-Campbell said the fire had bought him and the boys' mother closer together and they were talking about getting back together.