Residents of a block of flats were forced to flee after fire broke out late last night.

Fire crews battled the blaze for several hours as it ripped through two adjoining properties in a block of four in Portsmouth St, Aranui.

Fire and Emergency southern shift communications manager Rewi Grace said the fire started in the roof of one property around 10.40pm before spreading to a second home.

Those inside the two-storey block fled the smoke and flames. Everyone escaped without injury, said Grace.

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Four crews spent more than three hours at the scene.

Grace said a fire investigator would return to the damaged properties this morning to work out what started the blaze.

He said residents living in two undamaged flats were able to return to their homes overnight.