Neighbours who raised the alarm after a fire broke out in a Kāeo home also smashed a door to get inside and used a garden hose on the flames until firefighters arrived.
The Cemetery Rd blaze, just before 4pm on Tuesday, was a few doors down the road from the home of Lindsay Murray, the town's former fire chief.
Murray had to drive past the burning house to get a fire truck from the town's fire station.
The blaze was quickly brought under control but the interior was extensively smoke damaged.
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Fire chief Jo Sweet-Bennett said there was also structural damage but she believed the house could be repaired.
The occupants, a woman and her young son, were out at the time so it was "very fortunate" neighbours spotted the fire.
They turned off the power, broke a ranch slider to gain access, and fought the flames with a garden hose until Kāeo Fire Brigade arrived.
They were backed up by crews from Mangonui and Kerikeri.
It appeared the fire had started from a wood burner, which had ignited a bucket of firewood before spreading to a couch and then up a wall.
The home was fitted with smoke alarms which were sounding when firefighters arrived.