A blaze in a Rotorua church has left it severely damaged.
St John's Church on fire in Rotorua right now pic.twitter.com/7STAqrxYgp— Ryan (@strewnryan) February 8, 2017
Firefighters brought the fire, in St John's Church on the corner of Victoria and Ranolf Streets, under control this evening.
The Northern communications centre shift manager Scott Osmond said 10 fire crews were dampening down hot spots.
The Fire Service said it was called to the church fire shortly before 6pm.
Twelve fire trucks went.
Witness Ryan Gray said black and grey smoke billowed out of the church and police blocked the road.
"It's visible from all of Rotorua. A bit closer to the scene, one police officer was blocking the road, and people were there watching it, of course. About five minutes later, fire [trucks] arrived and police asked people to evacuate the immediate area."
Pretty terrible really pic.twitter.com/OHpqmNHooM— Ryan (@strewnryan) February 8, 2017
Earlier, nearby resident Chris Parrish said there was a lot of smoke coming out of the building.
"The fire brigade and the police are still out there," Mr Parrish said. "There's still a few flames coming out of the building."
Another resident, who lives almost opposite the church, first noticed the fire shortly before 6pm when she went to take her dog for a walk.
The fire seemed to have started in the centre of the church because that was where the smoke came from, she said.
She said it was too late for the church, which she described as a mess.
She heard stained glass windows shattering. She was uncertain about whether a block of flats behind the church was affected.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said a church elder told her the roof collapsed and the damage was extensive.
Ms Chadwick said the community would get together tomorrow to discuss how to support the congregation.