A huge blaze at a derelict mansion in Christchurch has been contained by firefighters and evacuated residents have been allowed to return home.

About 50 houses were evacuated earlier this evening after the historic Antonio Hall on Riccarton Rd caught fire, sparking road closures and severe traffic congestion.

Three crews will remain overnight to dampen hotspots, but the fire is said to be contained. At least 50 firefighters were at the category 2 heritage-listed building at the height of the blaze.

Fire and Emergency said it was called to the hall about 5.20pm and the mansion was "fully involved" by fire. The blaze had not spread beyond the hall.

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A spokesperson said a full search had been conducted but no one was found to be in the building.

The homes were evacuated as a precaution on Wharenui Road behind the Hall. No one is believed to have been injured in the blaze.

Riccarton Rd is closed to traffic westbound from the intersection with Wharenui Rd and Clyde Rd and Middleton Rd eastbound. Wharenui Rd is closed between Riccarton Rd and Lochee Rd.

Fire and Emergency are asking people to stay away from the area so they can tackle the fire.

Antonio Hall in Christchurch is ablaze. Photo / Supplied
Antonio Hall in Christchurch is ablaze. Photo / Supplied

Fire investigators would be on scene in the morning, FENZ said.

The property boast nearly 300 rooms and was once used as a Catholic seminary. It is understood the hall was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

"We are seeing major congestion on Riccarton Rd from Clarence St westbound and from Hanson's Lane eastbound," the Christchurch Traffic Operations Centre said.

"We recommend that road users avoid using Riccarton Rd in the meantime, or expect significant delays."

Due to the size of the fire these closures are likely to be in place for some time.

Fire and Emergency said it was called to the hall about 5.20pm and the mansion was
Fire and Emergency said it was called to the hall about 5.20pm and the mansion was "fully involved" by fire. Photo / FENZ

Welcome Chinese Vegetarian Cafe co-owner Bernard Teo told Stuff the road was closed and firefighters were on the scene.

His cafe is just three doors from the blaze.

"We are about 300m away. There's heaps of smoke and we can see the flames.

"The street is empty, the road has been closed. There are firefighters here, we're in good hands."

Hobby photographer Vishal Makwana said he was in the building last month and parts of it were still in good condition. He said the church section was well taken care of by a group of volunteers.

Other parts of the mansion were off-limits because of earthquake damage, and some buildings had fallen into disrepair.

Photographs he took at the time show graffiti-covered walls, curling wallpaper, and vines growing across the ceilings and walls.