Neighbours of a Hamilton house on fire woke the sleeping family in time to escape with their lives.

There were no smoke alarms in the two-storey Nixon St house when the blaze took hold about midnight.

The upper level - which was on fire - was empty after its previous tenant had been evicted, neighbours told the Herald.

The top level has been left gutted while a window remains smashed in the lower level unit with other debris scattered around the driveway.

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A neighbour said the fire was so intense that she thought the house directly beside the blazing building was on fire.

"The flames were billowing out of the house," she said.

The noise of smashing windows, yelling and arrival of emergency services all alerted surrounding residents to the blaze.

The neighbours who woke the mother, father and child sleeping in the unit - which is down a long driveway - were still too upset to talk but said it was scary and a very intense fire.

Many other residents walked past or stepped out to get a daytime view of the damage this morning, with some saying they could see the flames from their property.

Two fire safety officers and Hamilton CIB detectives arrived at the scene this morning, which was protected by a scene guard overnight.

Four appliances responded to the fire, which was put out reasonably quickly, a northern fire communications spokesman said.

None of the occupants of the house were injured.

It's the second fire at the property after a garage was destroyed about a year ago, a neighbour said.