Police ask for information after suspicious fire in Whakatāne rips through six businesses

A Givealittle page has been set up for the owners of a Whakatane business after it was burned down overnight. 

Epic Escape was one of six buildings affected by the fire and the local community has rallied to help the owners. 

"In the early hours of Monday 29 November, Matt and Anne of Epic Escape, Whakatane suffered a devastating fire. A car was driven into the St John Opportunity Shop building below them and caught alight, which quickly spread upstairs completely destroying the business they've spent three years developing. They have poured their heart and soul into building their dream business, and in less than 30 minutes it was gone," the Givealittle page says. 

Police are appealing for information after the suspicious fire tore through the building in Whakatāne CBD on Monday. 

Police patrols sighted a car alight in a building on The Strand at 12:43am.

The vehicle appeared to have reversed through the rear entrance.

"It's fortunate police were at the scene quickly and could notify Fire and Emergency," Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Wilson.

"I would like to acknowledge the devastation that the affected businesses have suffered, incidents like this impact the whole community."

He said a scene examination is underway and Fire and Emergency and police remain at the scene.

Police will be reviewing CCTV from surrounding businesses.

The vehicle involved was a blue Subaru Forester with the registration FLD29. It was reported stolen from Kawerau on October 18.

Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner says six businesses were damaged by the blaze. 

She says the town's businesses are "stunned".

"It's the small and medium businesses within New Zealand who have paid the largest price for our COVID response so the last thing we need is a situation [like this]."

The owners of EPIC Escape said they are devastated by the fire. 

"We're absolutely devastated that the thoughtless actions of some individuals has resulted in the loss of Epic Escape this morning," the company said on Facebook. 

"We have spent 3 years pouring our heart and souls into building this business, and in less than 30 minutes it is all gone.

"If you have bookings and vouchers with us we will be in touch with you in due course to organize refunds."