Some 50 residents who were evacuated from their homes tonight are now allowed back to their properties as firefighters have managed to contain a huge blaze at historic Antonio Hall in Riccarton, Christchurch.
Sixteen fire crews were sent to the scene after the alarm was raised at about 5.10pm to the blaze, which began in the roof of the building.
Nearby homes were later evacuated on Wharanui Road but residents are now being assisted by police to return.
Fire officials said they believe that the fire has not spread any further from the hall itself and that they have contained the blaze. They are continuing to use extension ladders to reach and extinguish the fire as crews begin a search of the wings.
Area commander Dave Stackhouse said the fire is under control but firefighters will work throughout the night to contain the blaze.
“Obviously, being old, it is a historic building and we’re keen to save as much as we can for that reason, but obviously it has a really high fuel loading which is making fire-fighting really difficult," he said.
The cause of the blaze is still unknown but will be investigated, he said.
The building, which is vacant, is listed as a category two historic place and was originally built in 1904.
According to its website, Antonio Hall was originally built as a homestead. However, in later years extensions were added and the property was run as a private hostel for university students.
The property was sold in 1993 but renovations were put on hold and the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch caused the building significant damage.
Further efforts by locals have been made to try and restore the property but visitors have been unable to access the hall, which had been closed due to safety concerns.