A neighbour ran to get an extinguisher before realising the flames were "too big", as a suspicious fire ripped through an abandoned house near Hastings overnight.
No one was injured during the "fully involved" house fire at a residential address on Omahu Rd in Twyford, shortly after 7pm.
Hawke's Bay Today understands the property, situated between horticultural and industrial land, had been unoccupied for several months.
Several motorists driving by stopped as they came across the wall of flames coming from the structure which was easily visible from the road.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said he could smell smoke as he returned home from getting groceries but thought nothing of it, assuming it had come from his fireplace.
It wasn't until he heard "loud bangs" - the sound of the glass breaking - that he realised it was a fire.
"I went outside and saw an orange glow."
He grabbed a fire extinguisher after calling 111, but realised the fire was "too big" for him alone.
"It was unreal. The flames were probably 20 feet in the air."
The neighbour could hear the "cracking and roaring of the fire" but said the smoke wasn't black and smelled mostly of timber burning as there was no furniture in the home and several holes in the walls already.
He found it concerning how close it came to his property and said he regularly chased youths from the area.
Two crews from Hastings Fire Station and one from Napier responded and a Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesperson said the house was "well alight on arrival" but had been contained by about 7.40pm.
It was deemed suspicious, though a scene guard was not in place overnight.
A spokesperson for police said inquiries were ongoing.