Large blaze not thought to be suspicious

A large and intense fire that caused extensive damage to a South Dunedin building is unlikely to have been deliberately lit.

Fire investigators spent all day yesterday at the former Wolfenden and Russell clothing shop in King Edward St after Saturday night’s fire and were last night unsure of a cause.

"Based on the information we have, we’re not looking at a suspicious classification," fire risk management officer Scott Lanauze said.

The site near Hillside Rd was a vacant commercial premises but a man who lived at the address was not there when the blaze happened.

Mr Lanauze was at the site for about three hours on Saturday night and the scene was examined from 9am until 4pm yesterday.

"It was an intense fire to fight, difficult to suppress," Mr Lanauze said.

A complex set of events led to the fire at the two-storey building, he said.

The most damage was in a central area, closer to the Rankeilor St end than the front, indicating that this was where the blaze started.

"It swept through the upper levels and progressed through the building."

Mr Lanauze said further interviews would be needed before he could be sure of the cause.

Firefighters tackle a blaze at the old Wolfenden and Russell building in South Dunedin on...
Firefighters tackle a blaze at the old Wolfenden and Russell building in South Dunedin on Saturday night. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

Wolfenden and Russell had traded for 100 years before the shop shut in 2013.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) received multiple calls about 8.50pm on Saturday.

Sinan Dogantimur was running his Tantuni Boys Turkish restaurant on Saturday when he saw smoke coming from the building opposite.

He also manages the Adana Turkish Cafe and Takeaway shop a couple of doors down from the old clothing shop.

People were coughing and had sore throats and the flames were large, he said.

Both of his businesses had to shut early and he took the precaution of switching off power and gas.

Six fire engines attended. Crews attacked the fire from both King Edward St with an aerial snorkel and from the narrow Rankeilor St.

Fenz area commander Phil Marsh praised the efforts of firefighters in stopping the blaze from spreading.

"It's taken most of our firefighting resources trying to put it out,’’ Mr Marsh said about 11pm on Saturday.

There were initial fears that the roof of the building could collapse, putting firefighters in further danger.

The force of the water hoses also sent sheet metal from the roof flying to the ground below.

By 4.30am, most fire trucks had been sent away, Fenz shift manager Lyn Crosson said.

The Dunedin City Council has declared the damaged building dangerous.

Workers from Naylor Love and scaffolding firm Brazier were at the scene yesterday to make the building more secure and shore up support for the veranda.

Mr Lanauze expected to establish the fire’s cause in the coming days.

 — Additional reporting Daisy Hudson and James Hall


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