The 16 residents of a Kaeo resthome had to be evacuated at
3am yesterday after a switchboard caught fire and filled the
building with acrid smoke.
One resident, who had to be rescued by a firefighter wearing
breathing apparatus, was taken to Bay of Islands Hospital in
Kawakawa for observation after suffering smoke inhalation.
While the evacuation went to plan and damage was limited, the
emergency highlighted Kaeo Fire Brigade's ongoing shortage of
volunteers with only three firefighters available to fight
The resthome, Kauri Lodge, is part of the former Kaeo
Hospital complex and is operated by the Whangaroa Health
Services Trust. Trust chairman Brendan Tuohy said the
caregiver and registered nurse on duty had already moved most
elderly residents to safety when police and firefighters
arrived, completed the evacuation and extinguished the fire.
"The main thing is that all our residents and staff are safe
and well," Mr Tuohy said. "We're proud of our staff and very
grateful to the police and fire brigade who did a fine job.
Damage to the building is quite minor but there's a lot of
cleaning up to do."
Residents would not have to move out during the clean-up but
would be squeezed up into one of the home's two wings while
the other was being cleaned. Other services in the same
building, including a GP clinic, were not affected, Mr Tuohy
Kaeo fire chief Lindsay Murray said the blaze started about
2.55am in a hallway switchboard.
"I grabbed the CO2 extinguisher and gave it a bit of a squirt
... There was one person still inside so I sent in a
firefighter in breathing apparatus to get him out."
The smoke alarms went off but the heat was not enough to
activate the building's sprinklers.
"The nurses did a great job getting the residents out, and we
did a great job putting the fire out - but we do need more
volunteers," Mr Murray said.
Power was restored to most of the building yesterday morning.
Acting chief executive Patricia Howitt said damage was
limited to the corridor floor and a section of wall.
The Kerikeri Fire Brigade also attended, using their thermal
camera to check for heat in the walls and ceiling and an
extractor fan to clear the smoke.
- By Peter de Graaf of the Northern Advocate