Fire near Wellington Airport

  • 03/04/2014

A digger has been brought in to help extinguish a large fire burning for more than 12 hours at a Wellington storage facility.

The heavy machinery has been used to pull back some of the roof and walls of the Kiwi Self-storage warehouse so firefighters can continue their work to put out the blaze.

They're working alongside the digger to dampen the area as more of the interior of the building is exposed.

Around 70 firefighters were called to the scene early this morning.

The fire started at Kiwi Self Storage in Rongotai Road around 12:45am and was still burning at 9am. Smoke was blown over Kilbirnie and nearby Rongotai and Lyall Bay, but did not disrupt flights in and out of Wellington Airport.

After initially battling the blaze unit by unit, firefighters were forced to fight the "stubborn" fire solely from the outside, Fire Service central communications shift manager Mike Wanoa said.

There were problems with the structure of the building, he told NZ Newswire.

"They are having problems with reignition in some parts."

It was likely the contents of the storage units were part of the reason the fire was so stubborn, he said.

The Fire Service says the only building affected at this stage is the central building Block B which contains units beginning with the following numbers: 200, 300, 1000, 1100, and 1200, TVNZ reports.

Assistant area commander Paul Smith says the outer cladding of the building stayed intact, but it was too dangerous for firefighters to get inside.

"What we're trying to do is get some of that outer cladding away and get some water into the building", he says.

However, Mr Smith says the building is so hot, the fire engine can't get close enough to the tin roof to pull it off.

InterCity Coachlines says bus services departing from Wellington today may be subject to delays or cancellations as road closures are preventing vehicles from leaving the depot.  

One service from Wellington to Taupo has already been cancelled and it is likely that other services will not be able to depart until 12pm.

Smoke from the fire also has the potential to disrupt nearby Wellington Airport and air traffic controllers had been informed, she said.

However, Wellington Airport says flights are currently operating as normal.

Stored personal goods destroyed

Kiwi Self Storage director Allan Fraser says there is potential for tragic losses.

"We don't know the cause at this stage. We are very surprised it could have reached this scale," he told Radio New Zealand.

The depot complied fully with fire regulations. It had monitored smoke detectors but no sprinkler system, which was standard for such depots, he said.

According to reports, some of the damaged goods included a grand piano, family heirlooms and Madonna memorabilia.

An Oscar and Bafta award-winning cinematographer says he has lost his awards and his own personal equipment.

Alex Funke, who worked as a cinematographer for Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings films, says he got a call from a friend at about 8am telling him about the fire, which has been raging since midnight.



"It's very upsetting. You put stuff in a storage facility and say 'no one's going to steal it, it's not going to catch fire'."

Mr Funke says that he did not know the facility did not have sprinklers until this morning.

He believed there was a process in which he could get the Oscar awards replaced, but "it's not quite the same is it?"

Bronze sculptor Megan Ransom fears she's lost thousands of dollars' worth of waxes, moulds and bronze pieces.

She had only had her things in storage for about five months and had been to get some of her things a few days ago.

Ms Ransom hadn't heard from the company about what would happen yet.

"I can't get hold of anybody, and I don’t know when anyone will get hold of me. Now I have to reassess a big part of my life," she says.

Another woman drove up to the facility, broke down in tears and left.

In 2010, a large fire tore through another Rongotai Road warehouse and workshop, which housing Portsmouth Miniatures Studio, used for the filming of The Hobbit movies.

3 News/ RadioLIVE 

source: newshub archive