A family will have to rebuild their lives after their Auckland home burned down as a result of a child playing with a cigarette lighter.

The single storey dwelling on Clements St in Mangere was reduced to its shell when fire ripped through it about 1pm today.

Four children and their mother escaped largely uninjured.

Vaifoa Tuialii, a neighbour, said the family, originally from Tonga, had been living there for many years and were struggling to come to terms with the situation.


"The lady was so stressed, she was in shock. We just told her to ... breathe and calm down. She was very, very shocked. I don't know how to describe it because this is the first time I saw something like this happened to somebody.''

The family were alerted when an 8-year-old boy - one of the four children - yelled "fire, fire, fire'' and they ran outside.

The children's mother thought her young daughter was still inside so re-entered the burning building but was called back when the girl was found safe outside.

The woman suffered smoke inhalation and was treated by ambulance paramedics at the scene.

"The fire was so big, huge,'' Ms Tuialii said. "I'm so happy they got out because it was so bad, so much smoke everywhere, everywhere. I think if they didn't get out quick it could have been very bad.''

The family was too distraught to talk to media as they walked around the wreckage of their family home this afternoon.

Papatoetoe Fire Station Senior Station Officer Terry Jenner said the fire had been started by a child playing with a lighter under a bed.

It was unclear whether there were smoke alarms because "every ceiling in the house is down on the floor''.

Police said the incident highlighted the importance of ensuring matches and lighters were always kept out of reach of children.