A Nelson pub was gutted by a suspicious fire that sparked fears for an adjacent petrol station early this morning.

Firefighters were called to the blaze on Waimea Rd about 1.45am, Fire Service southern communications shift manager Riwai Grace said.

"Initial reports were that it might be a petrol station. When they arrived, thankfully it wasn't a petrol station but it was actually a pub."

The fire was at the Rising Sun Tavern, a two-storey wooden building adjacent to a Challenge petrol station.


Mr Grace said the tavern was "burning well" and three more fire crews were called in.

"It took them just over three hours to extinguish the fire - it was in two floors and the roof."

He said the fire was "definitely suspicious".

Police are understood to have been alerted to burglaries in the area about the same time, but Nelson police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn dismissed those reports.

"That suggestion might have come from the sounds of glass popping and smashing, so at this stage, no suggestion that there's been a burglary at the scene of the fire."

Ms Dunn said the cause of the blaze was yet to be established, but it was considered suspicious.

Fire safety officers and police would investigate this morning.