Tenants of a Pukekohe arcade badly damaged by fire this morning are arriving at the scene, devastated at their losses.

Large boxes of donated books and toys ready to be shipped to Fiji schools have been lost in the early-morning blaze, which badly damaged businesses in the King St arcade, including the local Assembly of God church's office.

Firefighters are still damping down hotspots in the two-storey building.

Hope Church Pastor Mark McDowell said the church has lost all its office equipment and six large boxes of donated goods members had made a huge effort to collect.

"We had clothes and kitchen utensils, toys and books for kids that we were going to send to schools there.


"Unfortunately we're going to have to start again," he said.

A major fire in a Pukekohe shopping arcade is now under control and firefighters are searching the gutted building amid fears people may have been inside. The fire damaged shops inside and in the adjoining the arcade, including a hair salon, La Red Berry Cafe, Seahorse Restaurant, laundromat and chemist.

Firefighters had told him the church office on the southern side had borne the worst of the damage and it would be unlikely anything could be salvaged.

"It's just difficult to get up and going."

Offers for donations to replace the destroyed clothing, books and cooking utensils are already coming in, and can be emailed to info@myhcc.net.nz

Seahorse Sushi owner Kin Son said he was in shock and La Red Berry cafe owner Lee Zhou fears his new business has been destroyed.

Zhou and his wife bought the cafe in November.

"It's our first business, we bought it when our son turned 3 so we could do something together that we both enjoy.

"My wife likes to cook and I like to make coffee.

"We came early this morning but we knew the news before we got there.

"At the moment we feel quite sad, it's our first business and we have done so much to change it and make it better and better each day."

Regular customers of La Red Berry cafe were stopping to offer condolences and support to Zhou.

Locals were stopping to check out the damage and speak to business owners.

Just Cuts franchisee Dianna Rajeck said her shop was smoke damaged, but did not appear to have much fire damage.

"But they aren't sure if the water will come through from upstairs or what it looks like right down the back," she said.

Rajeck co-owns the franchise with her sister Michelle Patten and they had 10 staff.

"I had to give them all the call and say no work today. We aren't sure when we will be able to open again."

There was still a smell of smoke in the air, and the charred inside of the arcade was visible from the street.

Broken glass from shattered windows was on the footpath and emergency tape cordoned off the building.

Windows upstairs and down were blackened from smoke, and water pooled on the floor of the arcade.

Fire investigators were entering the site now.

No one was inside at the time of the fire but the 1920s building is extensively damaged.

Pukekohe chief fire officer Scott Darnill said the fire was called in about 4.45am, by a member of the public who saw smoke.

"It's a 1920s heritage property on the main street joined to other properties.

Darnill said the cause of the blaze was not yet known and there was still several hours of work to do to ensure it was fully extinguished, he said.

The building owner lives in New Caladonia, it is believed.

The building contains a cafe, restaurant and laundromat. There is also a pharmacy next door.

Firefighters survey the damage at this morning's arcade fire in Pukekohe. Photo / Michael Craig
Firefighters survey the damage at this morning's arcade fire in Pukekohe. Photo / Michael Craig

A vintage sign on the building facade said it was the Beatty's & Marshall Building.

Streets around the building have now reopened and business owners hope to be able to get in after lunch.

More than 10 fire appliances and dozens of firefighters are still the scene.

Additional reporting: Newstalk ZB