Kerikeri High School would have suffered significantly less
fire damage from a blaze at the weekend and would have
reopened today had a sprinkler system been installed, says a
Fire Service commander.
A fire at the high school which started early Sunday morning
in a science block was one of two arson attacks on schools
during the holiday weekend, with Mangere East School also
losing several classrooms to fire damage. Both schools did
not have sprinkler systems installed.
Northland Fire Service assistant national commander Trevor
Andrews said his experience with sprinkler systems suggested
that had one been installed the school would have suffered
much less damage, meaning students would have been able to
return to school today.
Damage to the school including a spill of toxic chemicals
will prevent the school's 1400 students being able to return
The fire highlighted the need for the Ministry of Education
to rethink its policy on sprinkler systems in schools, Mr
It was important that all schools had them installed, he
Ministry policy requires sprinklers to be installed only in
new schools and schools which add new buildings or put in
extensions over 1000 square metres.
"Schools are unfortunately targeted by arsonists, so they are
high risk," Mr Andrews said.
"Sprinklers really are the best option to prevent and avoid
building damage, but also avoid loss to resources and
disruption to schools," he said
Mangere East School also suffered class room damage after a
suspected arson attack yesterday and like Kerikeri High
School the school did not have a sprinkler system installed.
Fire safety officer Russell Dickson said sprinkler systems
would have dealt with the fire "very quickly".
Mangere East School principal Anthony Noble-Campbell said the
issue of sprinklers at the school was for the Ministry of
Education and not for him to comment on.
Kerikeri High School principal Elizabeth Forgie told Radio
New Zealand that schools could not afford to install
"The financial constraints that schools work under are very,
very tight," she said.
Installing monitored alarm systems was the most schools could
afford, Ms Forgie said.