Unattended cooking left on a stove caused a fire that badly damaged a house in Bulls.

Bulls fire chief Brian Carter said fire crews were called to the Hudson Ave house about 4.30pm on Wednesday after neighbours in the area known as the "Air Force block" saw smoke pouring out of the roof.

"It was well involved when we arrived with a lot of smoke and flames coming out of the kitchen window," Carter said.

"It made its way into the ceiling void and into the wall of the lounge. The top of the walls of the kitchen were burnt and destroyed because of the heat the fire generated. The kitchen door was shut and the fire burnt through that.

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"We were uncertain what we were dealing with initially because of the amount of smoke so we called in trucks from Rongotea and Marton to help. The house has a concrete tile roof and smoke was pouring out through that."

The woman who lived in the house had left to pick up her husband from work, forgetting that she had turned on an element under a pot on the stove.

"It's so easy to do and it's a reminder to people to be mindful about unattended cooking," Carter said.

The kitchen of the Air Force rental property would need to be completely replaced because of the fire damage, Carter said.

The occupants of the house spent Wednesday night in their garage.