A mother and her two children were feared trapped in a burning Far North home now the focus of an investigation into whether the fire that destroyed it was deliberately lit.
Fire crews from Kaitaia and Ahipara were called to the blaze on the corner of Allen Bell Drive and Kitchener St about 7pm yesterday.
There were initial concerns that the woman and two children who lived at the address might have been inside.
One neighbour said she had heard the woman shouting at the children, followed by silence.
They had been at home, according to police, but got out of the house, either before the fire started or before it took hold and were unharmed.
The fire, which neighbours said had started at the kitchen end of the house, quickly spread through the interior, flames erupting from windows at the other end within minutes of the first of three Kaitaia Fire Brigade appliances arriving, having travelled just 300m from the station.
Two St John ambulances were on standby.
The blaze produced a huge plume of black, acrid smoke that engulfed the house at one point. It was largely contained within the interior, although flames damaged a garage wall and spouting next door.
One firefighter saying the heat was so intense that even with full protective gear and breathing apparatus it was impossible to remain inside for more than a few minutes.
Senior Fire Risk Management Officer Gary Beer said temperatures could have reached 1200C, while a fire of that nature could engulf a building within three to five minutes.
He had high praise for the volunteer firefighters. "They do a great job, really professional," he said.
"This fire has obviously done a lot of damage, but they did well to restrict it as much as they did."
The house remained under a police scene guard overnight, uniformed officers taking over next morning, shortly before Beer began his inspection.
While the house fire was not believed to be related to fireworks, Fire and Emergency shift manager Colin Underdown said there had been four fireworks related callouts in Northland overnight.
Warren Marshall, Ruakākā Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer, said they were called to a fireworks related call out at One Tree Point about 8.30pm yesterday.
He said fireworks had caught some bush on fire and while locals put out flames before crews arrived, it "could've been a lot worse".
Marshall urged people who were still planning to let off fireworks to "be smart and be fire wise".
"I know they're probably going to let them off in the weekend but I guess people need to take care and be aware.
"It's really dry out there at the moment - there is a lot of fires happening out there due to scrub fires so it's being aware of your surroundings and making sure you've got water on hand."