Neighbours were driven back by flames and smoke as they desperately tried to help a man who was heard screaming inside a blazing Titahi Bay, Porirua house.
Titahi Bay man Kamira Rangimoeakau, 57, died in the blaze.
Kayla Kirby said she could heard screams as she raced next door to the house at 59 Dimock St just before 1am.
She said she was lying in bed watching a movie when she heard a bang and at first thought her mother-in-law had fallen out of bed.
''As I came down the hallway I saw orange light in the back yard...and then saw fire spitting out the back of the [neighbour's] house.''
She rang 111 and ran next door.
''When I got to the front door I heard screaming and I kept yelling for about 10 minutes to try and figure out where he was.''
''Then the smoke got the better of me and I had to back off and then the flames got to the front door,'' said Kirby, who had to be taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.
Another neighbour Janine Rao said the two-storey house was completely on fire when she and her husband Edwin rushed outside.
''It was completely raging in fire. You could see the inside completely burning and all we were doing was screaming out for somebody to help as we were waiting for the fire engine to get here.
''My husband checked around the house to see if he could find a way in. He and another man were at the window looking to see if they could get in but it was too dangerous."
She did not know her neighbour well. He was a quiet man who lived alone and kept to himself.
Relatives of the dead man arrived at the scene this morning. The victim's sister, who lives just a few streets away, said she was organising a karakia and did not wish to comment further.
Police said the blaze was not considered to be suspicious.