A farmhouse 15km east of Dannevirke was extensively damaged in the early hours of Friday after fire swept through it.
Dannevirke chief fire officer Peter Sinclair said the callout was received at 12.30am, and described as a fire around a chimney on a house on Maunga Rd, Ormondville, between Te Uri Rd and Otanga Rd.
By the time the Dannevirke brigade arrived at the scene, the back of the house was well alight. Flames had spread into the ceiling and broken through into the rest of the house.
"It was quite a difficult fire to get to because it was in the roof. We were able to put it out from the ground without having to get up onto the roof and remove sheets of iron."
Despite this, Sinclair said it took a lot of manpower and a lot of water to get the blaze under control.
Two fire trucks, a water tanker and a van from Dannevirke attended. They were supported by a fire truck and a tanker from Norsewood and a truck from Woodville. Members of the Takapau brigade were on stand-by in Dannevirke.
Sinclair said all up 20 fire personal were at the scene.
The house was owned by the sole occupant.
Sinclair said the house contained working smoke alarms, which woke the home owner and alerted him to the fire.
"He tried to do what he could to put out the fire but fire comms, who he was in contact with, told him to get out of the house and stay out."
He said it was very difficult for the owner to have to stand by and watch his home burn.
He was in no doubt the smoke alarms saved his life.
Firefighters stayed at the scene for several hours, keeping an eye out for hot spots and dampening them down, before returning to the Dannevirke station at 5.45am.
Sinclair said while the house was still standing, the back half was gutted and the rest of the house badly damaged by smoke and heat.