Matt Bateson threw a wheelie bin through the windows of a burning house and jumped inside searching through pitch-black bedrooms filled with smoke looking for survivors.
But despite his efforts, he wasn't able to save the life of a man inside the Whakatāne home.
That's a feeling that Bateson just can't seem to shake.
"I just wish it had a different ending."
The man who died in the November 14 Tuhoe Ave fire was Brownie Hitaua, a 47-year-old from Whakatāne.
Bateson, 28, lives across the road and woke before 5.30am to the sound of screaming. He said he initially thought it was drunk people walking home but soon realised it was something more.
He walked down his driveway and could see clouds of black smoke coming from the house across the road.
He started sprinting down the driveway and saw a man and his partner running along the road yelling out as they tried to wake people up to get help.
That man told Bateson they had earlier heard someone screaming inside the burning house.
"I jumped over the fence and grabbed a wheelie bin and threw it through the front window. It smashed but the wheelie bin got stuck in it. I managed to pull it out and then used it to stand on to jump through the window.
"It was pitch black and a big thing of smoke come over me and nearly knocked me out."
Bateson jumped back out of the window, took the bin around to the side of the house and used it to smash another window, while screaming out trying to ascertain if anyone was inside.
"I used my T-shirt and put it over my face and jumped through the second window and searched the beds and the floor to make sure no one was there."
He then found a metal brace lying on the ground and used it smash other windows.
He went back to the front window and this time was able to get inside without being overcome by smoke. He checked the beds and floor in that bedroom before jumping out again.
He then ran around the back and smashed the kitchen window at the rear of the property but just as he did it, there was a big explosion and more flames started darting out.
He tried to smash another window near the kitchen, which turned out to be the lounge, but the flames were getting too close so he decided against it.
Bateson said he had since heard Hitaua was found in the lounge.
"If I had got in that window, he would have been right there ... By the time I had done what I had done, it was too late, the house was completely in flames."
Bateson said he was "running on adrenalin" and didn't think about the consequences of getting hurt.
"Even though I did what I did, it does not really feel like I did anything to help because the outcome was still the same."
Bateson said he only moved to the area a few weeks ago and he didn't personally know Hitaua. He said he had since heard Hitaua only had one leg and he wondered if that hindered him from getting out in time.
He said he personally felt "okay" but admitted the fire had brought back horrible memories of losing his good friend, Zac Woodroofe, in a house fire at Poroporo near Whakatāne in 2016.
Bateson had only moved out of the house three days earlier.
Police have confirmed the Tuhoe Ave fire was still being investigated but it was not considered suspicious.
Hitaua's death has been referred to the Coroner.