Firefighters will not know if anyone was in a Christchurch house engulfed by fire tonight until after the flames have been put out.
Emergency services were called to a house fire in Hereford St, next to the Christchurch City Mission, about 9.30pm today.
Christchurch City senior station officer Paul Burns said the house was abandoned, but was known to be used regularly by squatters.
Firefighters were unable to search the house until the fire had been put out - which could take two or three hours, he said.
The cause of the fire was unknown, but it had been deemed suspicious, he said
Hereford St would be closed to traffic between Barbadoes St and Fitzgerald Ave for at least two hours.
Canadian tourist Danielle, who did not want her last name published, said she was eating dinner at a nearby motel when she saw smoke and flames outside.
"The whole house was engulfed in fire."
A nearby set of town-houses looked to be threatened by the fire and residents were leaving the buildings when firefighters arrived, she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News