Firefighters break into Kavanagh College in upper York Pl
as they fight a fire about 10.30 pm on Saturday. Photo by
A burning classroom at Kavanagh College and a fire at the
Green Island landfill - initially feared to involve dangerous
chemicals - had Dunedin firefighters scrambling to respond over
The fires erupted within 90 minutes on Saturday night and
fire appliances from across the city responding, Senior
Station Officer Lindsay Rae, of the Dunedin Central station,
The first, at the Green Island landfill, began about 9pm on
Saturday inside the Beta Antifreeze building next to the
landfill and resource recovery centre.
The second occurred at 10.20pm inside the clothing and
textile room at Kavanagh College, extensively damaging the
classroom and destroying sewing machines and other equipment,
all of which was insured, school principal Tracey O'Brien
It appeared industrial dehumidifiers being used to dry the
room after flooding from a burst water pipe may have caused
the fire, he said.
Mr Rae said four fire appliances, a mobile command unit and
about 20 firefighters were already ''stretched'' at the Green
Island landfill when the Kavanagh College fire began.
Fortunately, members of the Ravensbourne volunteer brigade
had been moved to the central city station as a contingency,
in case there were any further callouts in the central city
while so many resources were being used at the Green Island
landfill fire, he said.
The volunteers were then sent to the Kavanagh College fire
when the call came in, and were credited by Mr O'Brien with
helping prevent the fire from spreading to other classrooms.
Mr Rae said it was a busy few hours for the city's
firefighters, with units from Cental Dunedin joined by others
from around the city at the landfill.
Firefighters used breathing equipment while fighting the
fire, and a Fire Service spokesman said some were put through
decontamination procedures as a precaution afterwards.
Mr Rae said it was initially not known what was inside the
antifreeze recycling building, meaning it was treated as a
hazardous materials callout, but nothing ''horrific'' was
The building's equipment was used to boil used antifreeze to
separate it from the water it contained, he said.
The exact cause was yet to be confirmed, but fire
investigators were ''looking pretty hard at the separating
plant, because there's heat involved'', he said.
Dunedin City Council solid waste manager Ian Featherston said
the council leased the site to Beta Antifreeze, but smoke
detectors inside the building had worked and the landfill's
operation was not affected.
Mr O'Brien said damage to the college's classroom and
equipment would come at a ''fairly significant'' cost, but
the school was fully insured.
He credited firefighters with stopping the fire from
spreading, restricting it to one classroom and with only
''minor'' smoke damage beyond that.
He hoped the room could be refurbished in time for the start
of the next school year, but that would depend on the
availability of contractors and insurance matters.