A $2.2 million Hastings homestead has been destroyed in a massive inferno that lit up Pakowhai Rd last night.
The 1914 two-storey Hettinga Estate mansion was fully ablaze by the time fire crews arrived at the property just after 8pm.
Neighbour Carl Ferguson said he heard what sounded like "gunshots going off" before a police car arrived at the scene.
"The house has been on the market for quite some time but as far as I know it was unoccupied," Mr Ferguson said.
Ashleigh Hemara and Donna Elers, who live opposite the homestead, discovered their property was covered in ash this morning.
"It was the biggest fire I have ever seen," Ms Hemara said.
When Ms Elers looked out the front window about 8pm she first thought her palm trees were on fire until she ran outside and saw the homestead burning.
"The flames were above the trees. It was lucky there was no wind.
"It just went straight up into the air," Ms Elers said.
Another neighbour said she could hear the ash hitting her roof and her lights had been flickering shortly before she noticed the fire.
Hawke's Bay Today understands the landmark was built by a fruit growing pioneer and stayed in the family for at least three generations.
Fire investigator Mike Finucane said no obvious indication of the cause of the fire was found.
He would examine the scene today.