Fire destroys family home near Alstonville
When the noise continued, he got up to investigate.
As he peeked through the trees that border their properties, the neighbour saw flames inside the family's Willowbank Drive home.
"I ran back up to the house and immediately rang triple-0," the neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Another neighbour joined in the rescue effort. The two men ran over to the burning building in an attempt to save what they could.
"We pulled the trailer, lawn mower and boat away from the house, and walked around making sure no one was inside," one of the men said.
"Their two black dogs were in the back yard and they both took off.
"I went to unhook the gas tanks, but the heat was too intense and I couldn't get any closer."
When firefighters arrived about 10.30am, the men helped them run hoses down the steep concrete driveway to the house. Water had to be drawn from neighbouring pools to douse the blaze.
Firefighters were able to save a granny flat behind the brick house, but the main structure was gutted. The green Colorbond roof was blackened from the damage and had collapsed into the family living area.
It took fire crews about half-an-hour to control the blaze. About 40 firefighters and emergency vehicles converged on the cul-de-sac to try to contain the fire.
No one from the family was home when the fire started. It is believed an electrical problem caused the fire, but police and fire officers are still investigating. The fire is not being treated as suspicious.
The Van Dartel family was too upset to comment. The middle-aged couple and an elderly woman walked around the back yard, grabbed some washing that was on the line and tried to comprehend what had happened. The family's two daughters were in school.