A Northland man is counting his lucky stars after he woke up in time to flee a burning cottage that was completely destroyed.
An electrical fault is suspected to be the cause of the blaze on Monument Rd, Towai, 39km north west of Whangarei, just after 11am on Saturday.
Fire appliances from Towai and Kawakawa initially rushed to the scene before firefighters from Whangarei, Hikurangi, and Kaikohe joined in but the one-bedroom cottage could not be saved.
A Mazda 6 parked beside the cottage was also completely gutted. Another car, a Nissan Bluebird and an attached room, were saved.
The cottage was built in the 1980s and was occupied by a family who moved in about nine months ago.
The occupant who discovered the blaze was too distraught to talk to the Northern Advocate yesterday but his wife, who preferred to remain anonymous, said her family was left with only the clothes they were wearing.
She said her husband was sleeping in the lounge while she and her children were away when the fire started.
"The fire started in the hallway and there's a washhouse on the other side. The fire started either in the washing machine or the hot water cylinder," she said.
"Luckily he woke up and smelt smoke. He tried to put it out but couldn't so he came running to the owner's place and rang 111."
But a neighbour had already called the Fire Service after seeing smoke, she said.
The cottage has been owned by Wayne and Frances Stokes since 2002 and their daughter lives about 1km down the road.
"Nothing was saved. We survived on clothes we were wearing but we're quite lucky my husband actually woke up on time," the woman said.
The distraught family is living in a nearby homestead owned by the cottage owners.
Ms Stokes said the cottage was insured and her family would talk to their insurance company today.
"If we can rebuild it, we will. We've always had a presence there," she said.
Fire safety investigator Craig Bain was at the scene on Saturday and said an electrical fault was suspected at this stage. He will return to the scene today.
A woman who lives in Monument Rd was on her morning walk with her husband and a son when they heard a loud bang.
"We saw huge black smoke and my husband rang 111," said the woman, who also did not want to be named.
"What happened was unusual because it was a cold morning. The house was gone so quickly."