A woman and her young nephew had a lucky escape after their home caught fire, causing severe damage to almost half the house.

Hamilton woman Sarah Bluck was looking after the three-year-old boy when she smelt something burning about 12.30pm today.

The 26-year-old said a built-in gas heater in the lounge was turned on at the time.

"I looked up the hallway and I just saw smoke and I thought maybe I can put it out. I went to go up the hallway but it was just too late."


Miss Bluck grabbed her mobile phone and raced outside with her nephew where she called emergency services.

By the time firefighters arrived the front of the Chartwell house was engulfed in flames.

Waikato Fire Chief Roy Breeze said the fire burned through the ceiling and roof, damaging 40 per cent of the house.

"The front is all gutted. It's got that soft-board ceiling that makes fire spread very fast through the house."

Chartwell Fire Service station officer Darren Bowler said it was too early to say what started the blaze.

He said no-one was injured but described the house as "unliveable".

Mr Bowler said he would have expected a working smoke alarm to alert the occupants to the fire sooner than they realised.

Miss Bluck, who lives in the rented house with her mother, sister, daughter and niece, said she didn't know what the family would do.

"(We've lost) half the house."

She said there were no smoke alarms in the house.