A kitchen caught light when a son put a pan on the hob and left the house last night.
Eight firefighters based in Washington and Birtley were sent to Church View in Concord, Washington, just before 7.30pm.
Officers wearing breathing apparatus used a hose to put out the fire, which left three-quarters of the kitchen damaged.
The rest of the two-storey semi-detached house was affected by the fumes from the blaze, with a fan used to clear the house of smoke.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said the owner of the house had gone out and left her son, but he put on the pan then went out himself.
He suffered a panic attack on his return to the house and was given treatment by paramedics.
The fire crews also rescued three cats from inside the house.
Watch manager at Washington fire station Gary Carabine said: “There was severe damage to the kitchen from the flames and smoke.
“Thankfully everybody was alright though.”