Clouds of smoke wafted across the Rotorua CBD after a fire at a Fenton St restaurant.

The Rotorua Fire Brigade was called to the rear of the former Kurious Kiwi restaurant about 5.20pm yesterday. When they arrived, the outside of the building was "well involved" in flames, senior station officer Jim Prescott said.

"The fire was between the air conditioning unit and the rear wall," he said. "It took two crews of four firefighters four minutes to get it under control."

He said there was a "surprising" amount of smoke, which could be seen and smelled as faraway as Eat Streat.

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Mr Prescott said an investigation was under way to establish the cause of the fire but the possibility it was suspicious could not be ruled out. Nobody was injured in the blaze.

The restaurant, owned by the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust, is currently closed and is due to reopen as a Cobb and Co in early March.

Off-duty Kaingaroa volunteer firefighter Ken Austin said he was driving through the city when he saw the smoke.

"I could tell by where the smoke was that it was the building on fire," he said.

Mr Austin called the fire communications direct line to report the blaze then parked near it, helping keep people away.

He approached the flames and tried to remove two drums, with the help of a passing Palmerston North firefighter.

"Being a food place I thought it would probably be oil [in the drums]."

They moved one drum but the fire was too intense to get to the other, he said.

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Mr Austin said he had been happy to try to help.

"That's what I do for the community, it doesn't matter if it's my own community or not."

DESTROYED: A Manuka Cres house was gutted by fire on Thursday night. PHOTO/BEN FRASER 310114BF9
DESTROYED: A Manuka Cres house was gutted by fire on Thursday night. PHOTO/BEN FRASER 310114BF9

Meanwhile, a Hillcrest home was gutted by fire on Thursday night.

Assistant area commander Hamish Smith said two crews from Rotorua Fire Brigade attended the fire about 10.50pm in Manuka Cres.

No one was injured. The fire was being investigated, but was not thought to be suspicious.