FIRE destroyed a house at Beechworth early yesterday, a 50-year-old man escaping through a window to the lawn.
Neighbours and firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading to other homes about 3.30am.
One neighbour tried to use a hose to control the flames before three Country Fire Authority crews arrived.
The man was taken to hospital.
The weatherboard house in Le Couteur Avenue was gutted.
Detective Leading Sen-Const Ian Deverell said were it not for the neighbours and firefighters it could have spread to and damaged other homes.
“The house is an older-style home so it set alight pretty quick,” he said.
“The neighbours heard and called the fire brigade straight away.”
It is understood the fire started in the front of the house.
The man who escaped was the sole occupant.
CFA District 24 duty officer Graeme Neil said the house was engulfed in flames when crews from Beechworth, Wooragee and Stanley arrived.
It took firefighters about 20 minutes to get the blaze under control and another two hours to extinguish the flames.
Leading Sen-Constable Deverell said police were investigating the cause and anyone with any information that can help should call Wodonga detectives on (02) 6049 2700.
Five forensic chemists from Melbourne arrived later yesterday to examine the property.
Sen-Constable Deverell said the blaze served as a reminder to make sure their smoke alarms were working and that quick thinking could save lives.
“If a fire breaks out in your home, don’t try to fight it, just get out as quickly as possible,” he said.
“Even taking a just a few mouthfuls of smoke can lead to death.”
The Beechworth incident was the second house fire in North-East Victoria this week.
Fire levelled a Benalla home on Monday morning, destroying the family’s collection of antiques.