Residents of a Bellambi social housing complex took up garden hoses in the early hours of Easter Monday in a bid to save their neighbour's burning home.
The Whitby Mews townhouse was seriously damaged by the blaze, which is now under investigation.
The fire threatened to spread to adjoining homes, which were evacuated as more than 24 firefighters flooded the site.
Resident Wayne Morris was among those who awoke to the fire and tried to stop it spreading to his adjoining townhouse.
"Rob from number six was out there hosing. I just grabbed my hose. I was standing on the fence, aiming it at the fire," he said.
"It was burning over there then eventually it started coming across and the roof started dropping.
"It [the hose water] might have slowed it down a bit, but thank god the fire brigade got here."
Mr Morris and his partner Emma Belgrove were asleep when the fire began.
"I heard what sounded like someone running up and down the stairs next door," Ms Belgrove said. "The other half's gone to have a look and he's come back in and said, 'his house is on fire'."
The damaged property is normally home to a single man aged in his 30s. The Mercury understands the home was unoccupied on Sunday night. No one was injured in the fire.
The same home was recently targeted by vandals, who spraypainted obscenities around the back door. A hammock in the yard was also mysteriously incinerated a night earlier, according to neighbours.
Fire crews arrived just after 1:15am Monday to find smoke and flame coming from the townhouse.
With smoke coming out of the roofs of neighbouring homes, a thermal imaging camera was used to assess the threat before evacuated neighbours were allowed to return to their homes at about 3am.
An accelerant detection dog visited the site later Monday morning.
A spokesman for Fire and Rescue NSW said it was too early to determine the cause of the blaze.
"We'll be working with the police throughout the day to determine the cause of the fire," he said.
With Fire and Rescue NSW crews attending multiple house fires this week, Superintendent Scott Dodson said it was a timely reminder for residents to develop their fire escape plan.
"Now is the time for residents to check they have a working smoke alarm and that all members of the family have an awareness of calling Triple Zero (000) in an emergency" he said.
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