Fire investigators suspect a clothes drier was the source of a fire which gutted a King St unit in Rangiora on Monday evening.
A specialist fire investigator, Graham Davies, said the investigation team could not confirm the cause until they had spoken to the owner, Paul Fitz-Gerald, 65.
Mr Fitz-Gerald, who was at home when the fire began, was in hospital suffering smoke inhalation and minor burns, Mr Davies said.
The fire took hold quickly after 5pm on Monday afternoon.
Thick clouds of black smoke could be seen billowing above the property as firefighters arrived.
They brought the fire under control within about 20 minutes.
Mr Fitz-Gerald had managed to escape from the unit without serious injury after being alerted by a smoke alarm.
However, Rangiora's deputy chief fire officer, Kerry Ealam, said he had "lost just about everything" in the blaze.
Kurt Younger, 30, was in his mother's home next door when he heard the alarm go off and a crackling sound.
He phoned the emergency services after seeing smoke pouring out of the open back door.
Minutes later, huge flames developed and one of the windows blew out, Mr Younger said.
He was shocked how quickly the fire had taken hold and how much damage it had caused.
- (Live Matches)