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Fire and Emergency NZ southern shift manager Brent Dunn said the alarm was raised just after 5.20am on Tuesday by a passerby who saw flames and smoke pouring out of the abandoned Hereford St property.
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 but the road reopened about 8.50am.
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".
Central city residents were evacuated from their homes early this morning.
Evacuated resident Shanice Adair said the villa was right outside her driveway.
"There were flames quite high, smoke covering the whole street - definitely once we were allowed back inside, we noticed how much smoke was actually on the street," Adair said.