IT HAPPENED in an instant.

One minute Warwick Campbell was sitting down waiting for his dinner to cook, the next he was lying on the lawn outside his house, flat on his back, with his lungs full of smoke. He was lucky to be alive.

Mr Campbell, better known as 'Wockie', was pulled from his burning house on Wednesday night by an Iluka resident who was walking past his house just after the fire broke out.

"I was cooking mullet in the pot with oil in it and I just sat down, and I dozed off to sleep, and she boiled over and went on fire," Mr Campbell said.

Iluka Rural Fire Brigade captain Tye Porter said Mr Campbell's rescuer, who wished to remain anonymous, had saved his life.

"I take my hat off to him, it was a fantastic job," he said.

"He definitely saved the gentleman from further, or worse injuries."

Capt Porter said the fire engulfed the kitchen in a short time and only the quick actions of the fire brigade saved the house.

"(When we arrived) the house was very close to being fully engulfed ... because the fire had already worked its way into the roof cavity," he said.

"It was a brilliant save, the firemen can be very proud of themselves."

He said the fire broke out in the Spencer Street townhouse just before 6.30pm on Wednesday, and was spotted by an Iluka local who was on an evening walk. That person immediately rushed to the house and gained entry through the front door, before dragging Mr Campbell outside.

He then attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, but was repelled by smoke, Capt Porter said.

The fire brigade was called just after 6.30pm and arrived on the scene six minutes later.

Capt Porter said by that time, the kitchen was already gutted, and the focus turned to saving the house and restricting damage to neighbouring residences, which was achieved.

Mr Campbell was taken to Maclean District Hospital by ambulance to be treated for smoke inhalation. He was kept overnight for observation and released yesterday morning.

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