Once flames got a grip on old dry timbers, it took only an hour for a house at Oakleigh to be destroyed.
A man, woman and two children escaped unhurt from the blaze that started in a bedroom at the property yesterday afternoon.
Fanned by a strong wind, flames quickly spread through the house, Whangarei fire safety officer Craig Bain said. The inferno is thought to have started with a burning mattress.
The fire had almost destroyed the house at the rural property about 15km south of Whangarei before fire appliances from Whangarei, Ruakaka, Portland and a water tanker from the New Zealand Oil Refinery arrived.
The property's water tank was too close to the burning house for firefighters to use, which was why the tanker was called out.
The alarm had been raised at 2pm by the occupants who had just finished lunch and were relaxing after having done the dishes. They smelled smoke and discovered fire taking hold in a bedroom.
The dwelling was home to a man who was there at the time of the fire and who had a woman and two children staying with him.
Mr Bain said there were fire alarms at the house but the occupants smelled the smoke first.
Although there was a fireplace at the house that was not the cause of the fire, he said. The occupants had been careful to move any ash and embers away from the house when they emptied the firebox.
After the fire was out the chimney was left standing amid the charred ruins.
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