Firefighters pulled a rabbit out of a burning house Wednesday, a Manhasset-Lakeville fire chief said.

The pet sat on the front lawn, secured inside a pen, as firefighters put out the blaze at 14 Prospect St. in Thomaston Village, said Scott Garrigan, second deputy fire chief.

"He had a cage around him and he was eating grass on the front lawn," recalled Garrigan, who said he's an animal lover. "He was fine. Thank God he didn't have smoke inhalation or anything like that."

A neighbor alerted authorities about the fire at around 10:15 a.m., and firefighters, whose station house is just a few doors down, arrived to see the neighbor using his garden hose to douse the house, which was probably built in the early 1900s, the deputy chief said.

"The next-door neighbor was very helpful . . . putting out water where the smoke was coming out," Garrigan said. "The timing was everything. If the neighbor hadn't come home, that house would probably have been totally destroyed."

No people were home, and firefighters who broke down the door spotted the rabbit in the front room, he said.

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The animal and a pen were taken out to the front lawn, and about 35 firefighters put out the flames in half an hour, he said.

The rabbit's owner arrived shortly after the blaze was extinguished, he said.

Investigators from the fire marshal's office concluded a cigarette started the blaze outside, near the soffit between the first and second floors, Garrigan said: "One of the people that live in the house flung a cigarette out the window and it must have landed on the outside soffit. Because it wasn't a windy day today, it didn't blow off the soffit, and it started to burn through, started to get up into the wood."

The house is still habitable, he said, but the blaze caused up to $15,000 in damage on part of the first and second floors.

Garrigan considered the pet rescue one for the books, a "cute story": "His ears were pointing up to the sky. That means it's happy. It was a lucky rabbit."