About 9am on Monday a resident at the isolated rural hilltop home, about 20 kilometres from the Waitomo Caves, was in the kitchen when one of the overhead lights exploded.
She was puzzled, and reached up to touch the ceiling. It was burning hot, specialist fire investigator Kevin Holmes said.
“There was a shower of sparks between the light fitting and the ceiling – and it wasn’t from the bulb so she thought it might have been electrical,” Holmes said.
“The fire was obviously well established in the ceiling of the house and it has blown the electricity.”
Next minute, smoke was pouring from beneath the eaves of the 153sqm house.
Holmes said the woman grabbed her niece and fled the house.
“Just after he arrived back the ceiling collapsed into the lounge and dining area, and the fire took hold.
The house was fitted with working smoke alarms and had two fire extinguishers, but it took about 30 minutes for the nearest firefighters to arrive.
They were covered by insurance, she said, but felt for the family with young children who were trying to deal with losing everything.
The woman, on behalf the Osborne family, wanted to thank the local Otorohanga and Te Kuiti fire brigades for their efforts.