Two children - one in a critical condition - and three adults have been rushed to hospital after a large fire in Hastings this afternoon.

The fire, which occurred at a building in Saint Leonards, Hastings, has now been extinguished.

Police said two children had been taken to hospital, one with life-threatening injuries and a second in a serious condition. Three adults have also been taken to hospital for smoke inhalation and are in a stable condition.

Assistant Area Commander Nigel Hall says one person is still unaccounted for.

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However he's confident that person is not inside the charred building, as they've searched it two or three times now

Fire investigators remain at the scene to determine the cause.

Children as young as 8 had their burns doused in water at the scene, a nearby restaurant owner said. He said he helped a severely burned child.

Photo/Warren Buckland
Photo/Warren Buckland

The man described wrapping a child in food wrap and pouring cold water on them - something he said he would never want to do again.

Fire assistant area manager Nigel Hall said firefighters were called about 2.50pm to the blaze, which was "well involved" by the time they arrived.

Fire and Emergency went to "third alarm" and had six appliances with 30 crew members.

Hall said it was in a derelict building not in use for anything and there were no concerns about the building because the fire was now out.

"We managed to get the fire under control quite quickly but unfortunately there were some casualties, with two people taken to hospital with burns and a further two with smoke inhalation."

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Smoke was seen billowing from a commercial address on Heretaunga St West, where police closed the road.

Staff from the next-door building, David Jones Motors, were out dealing with a car when they saw flames rise up above the neighbouring fence line.

Photo/Warren Buckland
Photo/Warren Buckland

One staff member rang 111 while others, including a volunteer fireman, grabbed hoses from their garage and started spraying over the fence.

A nearby business owner said he could see a lot of smoke coming from the fire. He had heard a young boy had been burned.

Motorists were being asked to avoid the Heretaunga St area.

Police were helping with traffic management because there was thick smoke in the area.

Traffic was being diverted away from the Maraekakaho Rd and Stortford St intersections.

Diversions were in place at Townshend St and Heretaunga St West and motorists are asked to postpone any travel in the area.

It was earlier believed the fire was at the Storty Bar on Heretaunga St West. The bar was closed after a fire in early last year.