A fire that gutted an abandoned house in Whangarei was deliberately lit.
Firefighters rushed to Smeaton Dr, Raumanga, about 8pm on Wednesday after a 111 call from concerned residents.
But by the time they arrived, the weatherboard house was extensively damaged.
The structure and roof remain intact but the interior of the house has been completely destroyed.
Firefighter Phil Allely said two appliances and eight crew members were at the scene within five minutes of receiving the call.
They stayed at the scene until about 11.30pm.
Kylie Rupapera, who lives next door, rushed up the road with her three-year-old son because of the overwhelming smoke from the fire.
She was washing dishes when she noticed the house was on fire.
"We closed the windows and doors, rushed to the other side before my husband told us to go up the road and wait there," she said.
Ms Rupapera said her family moved into their home about five years ago and the whole time the now-razed house had been empty.
Another neighbour, Daniel Saville, said he noticed smoke from his backyard before his flatmate rang the fire brigade.
"It was well ablaze by the time the fire guys arrived. They stayed there about an hour or two."
He understood the owner lived in Australia.
Some neighbours have had to get into their cars and leave their homes because of smoke.
Fire investigator Craig Bain confirmed the fire was deliberately lit and that police were handling the matter.
He said the fire was likely to have started from a bedroom.