A house fire that destroyed a large home in Howick is being treated as suspicious.
The fire swept through the Somerville Rd home in East Auckland just after 4pm as the residents fled outside with their pets.
Fire and Emergency NZ shift manager Daniel Nicholson later said the fire was out and would be monitored overnight to ensure it was extinguished.
It was being treated as suspicious, he said.
A fire safety investigator would return to the scene early tomorrow to establish the cause of the fire and then police were likely to take the lead.
Earlier today four fire crews from Howick, Papatoetoe, Mt Wellington and Otara were called to the scene where the large two-storey 20mx18m home was ablaze.
Plumes of dark smoke could be seen rising from the house as emergency service personnel worked to bring it under control.
Firefighters were called to the blaze at 4.15pm and it was already well-involved when they arrived.
Neil Penfold was driving home from work about 4.10pm when he noticed the fire. He pulled over to check the two men and woman holding a dog standing on the front door step of the blazing house were okay.
"One [of the men] kept going back in which was a real worry. I told him to get out. They said there was another guy, but he wasn't inside.
"I think he was in shock. He was really confused."
The fire appeared to have started at the back and side of the house, but could also be seen from the front door, he said.
"It was pretty scary."
Resident Annie Wong posted on a local Facebook page that the roof had been destroyed. She saw three people leave the house with a bird and dog and get into a police car and did not believe anyone else was inside.
Another member said two of the occupants left wearing dressing gowns.
The large smoke plumes could also be seen 8km away in Pakuranga.
The house is 250m from Somerville Intermediate School.
There was a large police presence in the area earlier and the police Eagle helicopter had been circling, according to residents on social media.
A police spokesman confirmed police were called to the scene at 4.38pm to assist. St John was also at the scene, but no one appeared to need treatment.
Somerville Rd was closed to traffic earlier.