Three people have survived a house fire on a Coolangatta property late on Friday night.
An elderly couple and their son were upstairs inside the two-storey building when the house caught on fire.
The family climbed down a ladder to escape the burning home.
The elderly man, who suffered smoke inhalation, was taken to Shoalhaven Hospital for treatment.
The family returned early on Saturday morning to find the house had been destroyed.
Emergency services including police, paramedics and firefighters were called to the scene at 10.18pm.
Shoalhaven Heads RFS captain Steve Thomson was among the first on scene of seven fire crews.
Mr Thomson was there to meet the family who were "shaken and distraught" upon their return at 3.30am on Saturday.
"When we arrived, there was fire from one end of the building to another," he said.
"The fire, because of its intensity, spread to the gardens but it didn't leave the boundary of the property."
The top storey of the 10m by 20m structure was timber-clad, fuelling the fire.
Nowra's Fire and Rescue NSW captain John Dun and his crew arrived 10 minutes after the Shoalhaven Heads brigade.
"It was a difficult job," Mr Dun said.
"There was no water close by, it was difficult to access, there was nothing we could save."
Police are working to determine the cause of the fire.
Mr Thomson has urged residents to get their chimneys checked before they fire them up this winter, and when using any heating appliance, keep other items at least 1m from the heater.