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Emergency services were called to the home, of retired Adelaide trauma specialist, Dr Bill Griggs, in Goolwa South, 67km south of Adelaide, just before 5am.
The house was vacant at the time of the fire and police say there have been no reports of any injuries.
The flames were so high they leapt over the top level of the double-storey riverside home.
Neighbours swung into action when the fierce wall of fire started threatening their own properties.
John Bailey was one of the neighbours forced to protect his home from the blaze.
“Neighbours on the other side and myself and another neighbour started hitting it with the hoses waiting for the fire trucks to arrive,” Bailey said.
“[I] kept wetting our house down and hoping that none of those sparks would start anything.”
The neighbouring homes were spared, but Griggs’ home was not as lucky.
Brittany Evans from the South Australian Country Fire Service said by the time firefighters arrived at the scene there was nothing that could be done to save the home.
“Crews worked hard to protect the two closely neighbouring properties with the fire contained to the home. Total losses are estimated to be about $1 million,” Evans said.
Fire crews were able to extinguish the fire and investigators have attended the scene to determine the cause.