Billowing black smoke from a fire at a Hamilton tyre shop could be seen from a passenger flight.
Dozens of firefighters began battling a fire at AH Franks Tyres on Anglesea St this morning where there were concerns about asbestos in the roof of the building.
Throughout the operation, firefighters were being hosed down and their uniforms thrown in bags for washing due to possible contamination.
Large explosions could be heard from the blaze which the fire service was alerted to at about 9.40am and part of the building was on the verge of collapsing.
Flames could be seen inside the windows of the business and had engulfed a garage roller door.
Thick plumes of black smoke came from the roof and could be seen all over the city, including Tamahere, about 10km away, and Raglan.
Firefighters were still dampening down hot spots at 2.30pm today. Waikato fire safety officer Kevin Holmes said firefighters would be unable to go inside the building to extinguish hot areas until the unstable wall, on the southern side, was pulled down.
The smoke was also seen from a flight Matt Dwen was on.
Firefighters directed hoses on all sides of the building as well as using a snorkel - aerial appliance - from above.
Heat from the fire could be felt from across the road and the street was closed.
The premises were the subject of a suspected arson yesterday evening when a pile of tyres were set on fire down the side of the building.
Firefighters extinguished the fire, but were called again this morning for the new blaze.
It is the third fire at the shop in four years.
Jim Nolen, who owned the shop for 31 years, arrived at the scene at about 10.30am. It was a family business which had been running for 96 years.
He said he was "devastated" by the blaze.
"I'm shattered, almost numb," Nolen said.
"My problems are the building has gone. That's it. End of story.
"Yesterday's one was deliberately lit. We don't know about today's and according to the fire officer I was speaking to it could be difficult to determine because it's such an intense blaze. We may know, we may not, but we won't know for a long time."
Waikato Fire Service acting area commander Mark Tinworth said about 16 appliances attended the scene.
He said it was too early to speculate about what had caused the fire, but no one had been injured.
Most of the building had been damaged.
Collins Auto Electrical is attached to the tyre shop.
Owner Jason Land said he arrived at the shop just before the fire trucks arrived and removed about six customers' cars they had been working on to a neighbouring car park.
Thanks to a firewall separating the two businesses his shop escaped relatively unscathed with just a small amount of water seeping through.
"I think we were a bit lucky."
He was expecting to re-open tomorrow.
Land had not looked at his security cameras this morning, but said he checked over the footage after last night's fire and had not seen anything suspicious.
A large crowd gathered to watch the fire unfold, with at least 200 spanning Anglesea St footpath.
Alyth Cameron first noticed thick black smoke billowing from the building about 9.45am.
The smoke was drifting across the city and she could hear "crackling and popping" sounds from her home nearby.
Claire Cameron said despite the fact the building was on the other side of town from her she could still see the smoke billowing.
"We can just see huge black pillows of smoke, looking out across from our house, across Victoria St, the main part of Hamilton.
"When we first saw the smoke, fire engines were going past our straight, we could see them up on the main road."
Wendy Tane was driving south along Anglesea St about 9.30am and pulled into a car park across the road to see the large flames and smoke pouring from the building.
"Just smoke and loud bangs. Flames were coming out of the top. The flames weren't too high. It was just the smoke that really caught our eye."
She thought the loud bangs were caused from the windows breaking. "The garage roller door melted away which was crazy," she said.
Her husband Chris said there "sharp loud bangs like something had exploded inside".
Sam Goodbehere had turned up to work at Rent a Dent a few doors away at 9.50am and said he could see the large plumes of smoke on his drive in from Hamilton East.
"There was fire pretty much right down the building...
"There were a few pops and explosions. Just the normal fire noises. Nothing major though."
In September 2012, a deliberate fire at the rear of the AH Franks building caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the building and destroyed about $20,000 worth of equipment, including a compressor and a customer's Nissan Skyline.
The main workshop was saved from any substantial damage and the company reopened yesterday once power was restored.
The fire happened a week after workers at the company locked up the belongings of homeless people who had been sleeping nearby in a skip.