A man is in hospital with serious burns from a fire that tore through his Tauranga home - after he tried to fill a lawnmower with petrol while smoking a cigarette.

Neighbours ran to the man's aid when they saw him running screaming from his house in the Parkvale suburb about 3.20pm yesterday.

"We saw the smoke, then we heard them come running out of the house screaming, 'fire, fire'," said one woman.

"He was alive but he was burnt. His legs were bad and he was burnt on his chest and his face but all he could say was 'my house, my house'."


The woman, who didn't want to be named, ran to her garden hose to try to tackle the fire.

"But the hose wasn't long enough and we couldn't get close to it. Even the fence [which is about 10 metres from the house] was hot and we just couldn't get close."

She lay with the man on the roadside while he repeated "my house, my house". She said he was "really lovely" and had lived there only about five months.

Firefighters were on the scene within minutes. They helped the man by pouring water from the garden hose over his burns and spent about 20 minutes dousing the flames.

St John Ambulance paramedics stabilised the man, who suffered serious burns to his legs and superficial burns to his face and arms.

"We gave him some pain relief then took him to hospital in a stable condition," said a St John ambulance officer.

A woman who was with the man at the Housing New Zealand property was injured.

A witness said the fire was unlike anything she had seen.


"It was nasty, there were flames coming out of the windows."

The fire melted the white guttering, charred weatherboard at the front of the house and an explosion blew out windows and created a small hole in the roof near a chimney.

Fire inspector Ken McKegg said there was "significant damage" throughout the house.

"The kitchen area is singed and the flames have made their way into both sides of the hallway."

He said the man was interviewed by Tauranga police last night.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner said they were satisfied the cause of the fire was accidental.

"So the motto from this is, when filling appliances with petrol, extinguish your cigarette first," Mr Turner said.