Fire investigators will inspect the damage at a Wellington
storage facility this morning after a huge blaze ripped
through the building yesterday.
The fire, one of the largest Wellington has seen for a long
time, burned out the entire top floor of the Kiwi Self
Storage unit in Kilbirnie.
It started about 12.45am yesterday and reached a "fifth
alarm" - the most extreme end of the Fire Service's response
At one point, 80 firefighters were working to contain the
blaze, with owners of belongings stored in the unit - which
did not have sprinklers - watching on in horror.
The top floor of the building was destroyed by the blaze,
while the ground floor appeared to have suffered only smoke
and water damage.
Fire service central communications shift manager Mike Wanoa
said fire investigators would investigate the cause of the
The fire was finally extinguished shortly after midnight, and
crews remained on the scene overnight.
"They had rotating crews going from then on just to make sure
things were dampened down.'
Only one fire crew remained at the site this morning.
The fire has prompted calls for sprinklers to be installed in
large commercial buildings.
United Future MP Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs,
last night said he would discuss with appropriate officials
the merits of making sprinkler systems mandatory in
"In principle, yes I agree to the desirability of having
sprinklers installed in all commercial buildings, and to this
end I will raise the issue with officials."
The unit razed by fire was one of five belonging to Kiwi Self
Storage at the site. Its top floor was destroyed by the
blaze, while the ground floor appeared to have suffered only
smoke and water damage.
As crews worked to contain the fire, Wellington Fire Service
assistant area commander Paul Smith issued a statement
strongly recommending that sprinklers be installed in large
"Our advice is for commercial property owners of large
buildings to install sprinklers - that way any fire that does
start is either doused by the sprinklers or stopped from
spreading until firefighters arrive."
Andrew Fraser, director of the parent company which owns Kiwi
Self Storage said sprinklers were not installed at the
storage unit because it was not industry practice to do so.
Smoke detectors, which were connected to an alarm system,
alerted people to the blaze.
"We have also on-site managers that live at the facility.
They were obviously aware of the alarm and immediately
contacted the fire department."
The company would likely be discussing the use of sprinklers
in its units, he said.
New Zealand's representative for the Self Storage Association
of Australasia, Keith Edwards, said extensive systems were
already in place to ensure all storage facilities had
appropriate fire alert systems.
"Fire experts" such as engineers and the council must sign
off on a fire alert system at a storage facility building, he
He refused to say whether sprinklers should be mandatory for
storage facilities, as it was not his area of expertise.
"Bearing in mind, you do get a lot of false alarms with
sprinklers and it could cause a lot of damage without need
be," Mr Edwards said.
Up in flames
* A cinematographer who worked on Sir Peter Jackson's Lord of
the Rings trilogy, Alex Funke, feared a couple of Oscar
awards had been lost in the blaze. The awards were for the
Two Towers and Return of the King. He also had some Bafta
awards stored in his unit, as well as camera equipment, and
told APNZ he had been unaware the facility did not have
sprinklers."It's very upsetting. You put stuff in a storeroom
and you say 'Well, it's safe, nobody's going to steal it,
it's never going to burn down'. Well obviously next time put
it in a place with sprinklers."
* Martin Cahill had boxes of books and items which belonged
to his parents inside the storage facility. "I just want to
find out how it started." His items were at "ground zero" and
would have been destroyed, he said.
* Pauline and Darrell Waiti had stored a lot of personal
items in a unit for safe keeping while they relocated cities.
"We knew we just had to come and pick it all up and put it in
the truck, and its gone now. I've just found out that there's
no sprinklers in there, and just really gutted. It's really
heart-wrenching," Mrs Waiti said.