Witnesses describe 'altercation' between residents after fire destroys their boarding lodge

Fire investigators are working with police to establish what started a massive blaze that destroyed a boarding lodge in the Auckland suburb of Parnell.

The fire at The City Garden Lodge broke out on Sunday afternoon and could be seen from right across the central city.

It's understood everyone managed to evacuate and no one was injured.

St George's Bay Road resident Hayley Thomas lives next door to the property, and says she called Fire and Emergency before running out onto the street.

"I looked out my bedroom window and the whole top of the house was on fire," she told Newshub.

Kay Young has lived opposite the lodge for 15 years, and said she first noticed something was wrong when the building's alarm started going off. 

"I looked across the road and there were flames leaping out from the back of the house," she said.

"There was one guy, he must have been up on the first floor, I can see out my kitchen window, and he actually threw his bag out and leapt out the window."  

It took more than 40 firefighters three hours to fully extinguish the blaze, but as they worked on containing the fire, locals say a scuffle broke out between the lodge residents. 

"They started to have a physical altercation out on the street, I don't know what it was about but there were like several of the men fighting and then one of them pulled out a knife, and the crowd were just, we were just standing there, it was like, there was so much going on," Thomas said. 

Police took one person into custody, but they were later released without charge. 

The house was engulfed in flames.
The house was engulfed in flames. Photo credit: Newshub

A number of people who live in the area told Newshub they have had ongoing issues with anti-social behaviour from some of the residents living at The City Garden Lodge. 

The building was initially run as a backpackers. 

Deputy Auckland Mayor Desley Simpson said recently Auckland Council had been working with its owners over building issues.

A final council inspection was due to happen on Tuesday. 

"The people who had been living here were relocated last night and we will be working with Te Whatu Ora and MSD to make sure they have all the support they need," Simpson said. 

"They're vulnerable people, they're MSD clients and we just want to make sure they're looked after, it would have been very traumatic for them." 

The Ministry of Social Development said 10 people who were already receiving support from the agency have approached MSD for assistance following the fire. 

MSD is helping with temporary accommodation and says it will work to help those displaced find long-term living options.