A smoke detector may have saved the life of a Whanganui man on Friday, the Fire Service said.

Firefighters were called to a Kupe Pl, Castlecliff flat shortly after 2am.

The sole male occupant had already awoken to the smoke detector alarm, as had neighbours.

A small stove top fire was extinguished, leaving only superficial damage.

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"He was really lucky, the smoke alarm woke him and neighbours before he was overcome with smoke," senior station officer Craig Gardiner said.

"The smoke alarm did a great job."