Complaints had been for years made about the state of a "derelict" Wellington property destroyed in a fire on Sunday night, says the owner of a house next door.
One person was taken to hospital after two properties were destroyed, and another two badly damaged by the major fire overnight.
Police are treating the fire as suspicious.
Bill Guthrie, who owns 127 Hanson St – also destroyed in the fire – said he had been complaining to council for years about the state of number 125, where the fire is believed to have started.
"It's been derelict from probably 15 years at a guess. We've approached the council a number of times about it."
"They said they can't do anything about it if the rates are being paid on the property … despite the fact that there was a fire risk there was very little we could do."
He had bought the three-bedroom property 40 years ago and said "a lot of love" and memories had gone into it.
Its four tenants were thankfully all accounted for, but the house would likely have to be demolished, he said.
Wellington City Council confirmed complaints had been made about the state of 125 Hanson St - where the fire is believed to have started.
Council's Acting Chief Operating Officer James Roberts says Council public health, building compliance and community services staff had been working with police and the property owner to try to reduce risks at the property.
A council public health officer had been scheduled to visit the property this afternoon in response to ongoing complaints about rubbish and squatters.
Hanson St resident Nick Reid said he often walked past the house that had caught fire, and had believed it to be abandoned.
"We all thought it was abandoned, I've talked to the neighbours as well.
"I've never seen anyone come in or out of it. Really overgrown, all this rubbish out on the stairs going up into the house."
Neighbour Fergus Trengrove said there was a house across the road that had been "abandoned for years".
The blaze broke out in a property on Hanson St in Newtown just after 10.30 last night.
It quickly spread to three other properties in Hanson St and Adelaide Rd - with 19 fire crews working to bring the fire under control by about 1am.
One member of the public was taken to hospital and two firefighters received minor injuries, but everyone else has been accounted for, with no other reports of injuries.
Hanson St resident Josh Godsiff, who lived in the house next door, spoke to the Herald on Sunday night as his home was ablaze.
"We were just about to go to bed and then we heard a bit of noise next door," he said.
"We came out of the house to have a look and we heard on the street one of the police guys opposite to the house ... he comes out and says get out now."
Godsiff said his house was two doors down from the house that initially caught alight, which was believed to be abandoned. He had time just to grab his keys, phone and wallet before leaving the house.
His flatmate told the Herald he was about to go to bed when he heard a girl crying and banging.
"I opened the door and could see flames."
Police said two properties have been destroyed and another two were extensively damaged.
A number of other properties in the area were evacuated as a precaution.
A scene guard remains in place this morning with Fire and Emergency and police investigators due at the scene today.
Police said the fire was being treated as suspicious at this stage.
Hanson St resident Brian McGettrick told the Herald they had smelled smoke and then opened the door to see "some commotion" on the street.
"We came outside to see and it was raging. We went out onto the street and everyone was standing out on the street," he said.
"The fire brigade were there, they were onto it pretty quick.
"But it was a really serious fire, you could tell it was going to do some damage but they were onto it quick."
Another witness, Rebekah Parsons-King, said residents on Hanson St and Hall St in Newtown started smelling smoke about 10.30pm, and as people came out of their houses, they noticed smoke was filling the air.
"Police and fire crew started arriving. As they did, massive flames started flashing in the air."
The first house was fully engulfed by the time the engines started to fight it, she said.
The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office provided welfare support to residents who were evacuated overnight.
Wellington City Council said their public health staff were inspecting the fire scene for asbestos that may have spread from the roof cladding of the damaged buidings.
But they believed the risk was low due to the overnight rainfall.