Residents in the Wellington suburb of Newtown have spent the night on edge, watching as flames ripped through several houses.
The fire, which began in one property around 10.40pm yesterday, quickly spread to three neighbouring properties.
Two of the houses have been burnt to the ground and deemed "total losses", two were significantly damaged, while several others have suffered minor damage from the heat.
Police say the fire is being treated as suspicious at this stage.
In a statement from Wellington City Council, a spokesperson said Community Services staff have been assisting 11 residents from three families who were either left homeless or evacuated after the fire.
"Council public health staff are inspecting the fire scene and surrounding properties today to check for the presence of asbestos that may have spread from the roof cladding of both damaged buildings – however their initial finding is that the risk is low given overnight rainfall and the large amount of water used to fight the fire and dampen down the scene," the spokesperson said.
Initial inquiries today into the background of the property at 125 Hanson Street – where the fire is understood to have started – have confirmed that the City Council had been actively working to manage the complaints from neighbours about the state of the property.
Acting chief operating officer, James Roberts, says Council public health, building compliance and community services staff had been working with police and other agencies, and the property owner, to try to reduce the risk presented by the property.
Roberts says the situation was "complex, deeply unfortunate and difficult to resolve" given the restrictive powers of the interested agencies.
He said that a Council public health officer had been scheduled to visit the property this afternoon in response to ongoing complaints about rubbish and squatters.
Ash Howell, who lives several houses down from the blaze, recalled a bright orange glow and a sound she thought was fireworks, before realising her neighbours' houses were burning.
"We've been monitoring the blaze and have our grab and go bags ready just in case the blaze moves closer to our house."
Another witness, Emily, watched the fire rage for nearly an hour.
"The fire service seemed to have it under control. It was going down, slowly though."
Twenty-one fire crews fought the blaze on Hanson Street, which forced several dozen residents to evacuate.
Police say one person with moderate injuries has been taken to hospital, where they are in a stable condition.
Two firefighters were also treated for minor injuries at the scene.
The Power Authority had cut off electricity to several properties for a duration of the night.
Wellington City Council said it helped 11 residents (three families) into emergency housing following the fire.
Motorists are advised to avoid the area, with parts of Adelaide Road and Hanson Street currently closed.
Specialist fire investigators will start looking at the cause of the blaze.