The owner of a heritage-listed building engulfed in flames suspects it was arson.
The abandoned villa, featured in Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures, went up in flames shortly after 5.20am.
Owner Andy Wong says the Edwardian property had a history of problematic squatters and it was the second fire in less than two years.
It is believed someone might have entered the boarded-up building via an existing ladder before setting fire to the property, he said.
Police and Fire are investigating the cause of the blaze.
A block of twenty flats had to be evacuated during the fire.
The villa was built in 1906 and is heritage-listed by the Christchurch City Council for its historical and social significance.
The exterior of the house was featured as the home of Pauline Parker in 'Heavenly Creatures'.
It was a frightening start to the morning for the neighbours of the villa.
Renae McEntee said they walked out to see flames coming from the building.
"It was quite scary to be honest, because there were so many apartments right next to it. It was like 'Are they going to catch on fire?' But they were fine, which was a relief."
Residents said no one lives at the property - but in the past it has had squatters.
At the height of the blaze there were five fire crews at the scene, including one operating an aerial appliance.
Hereford St was closed to traffic between Barbadoes St and Fitzgerald Ave with motorists asked to use an alternative route.
Dunn said there was no one in the property when the fire broke out.
In the past hour fire crews had brought the blaze under control and firefighting efforts were now being scaled back.
Police were also at the scene but at this stage they were not involved in the fire investigation, Dunn said.
Dunn said by the time fire crews arrived the wooden villa was "well involved".
Council head of regulatory compliance Tracey Weston spoke to Chris Lynch on Newstalk ZB about the fire.
She said they have not received any complaints in relation to the abandoned villa.
"Our current approach is if we receive a complaint then we will investigate. Our approach is reactive only.
"The council can only take action when it is a breach of legislation we enforce which is the building act and the housing act."