When a concerned neighbour made his way around the back of his friend's smoky home, he found a house spewing flames and a dog going "berko".
The man, who did not want to be named, said he noticed the smoke at the house on Kakaho Drive, Tawhero, and headed around the back.
"That's our friends," he said. "I went around the back ... the dog was going berko."
He said the dog "took off" when he entered the backyard, and he didn't know where it went.
"One of the back rooms, the flames were screaming out ... pretty sure that's one of their bedrooms.
"There was three people on phones all at once."
The two occupants of the house were not home when the blaze started about 8.45am yesterday . The friend said they both worked.
An ambulance, several police cars, and four fire trucks attended the fire, which was "well involved" when emergency services arrived.
Senior station officer Jemal Weston said firefighters first had to find out whether people were still in the house.
"They've searched the building and they can't find anyone," he said, adding that neighbours told them the couple were usually at work by that time in the morning.
He said firefighters could "see the smoke from the station".
People were gathered out on the street squinting through clouds of smoke as firefighters worked to dampen the ceiling space.
Next-door neighbour Fay Mitchinson had been sitting outside having her breakfast when she heard glass breaking.
"I thought, 'Oh, they're putting rubbish out'," she said.
"I didn't see any flames, but then there was a whole lot of smoke.
"I never thought of a house on fire, I thought they had started up a fire themselves."
Mrs Mitchinson didn't realise what was going on until another neighbour came to her house and asked if she was all right.
"I thought, 'What's she talking about'?"
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Mr Weston said investigators were still "sifting through the evidence", but it appeared the fire started in one of the bedrooms.
A cat died in the fire, while the dog that escaped has not been found.
Mr Weston said if anybody saw a "foxy", it might be the missing pet.