Businesses destroyed in Ashburton fire

Black smoke billowed across the sky in Ashburton early Saturday evening as the dreams of two Ashburton businesses were destroyed in a ferocious blaze.

The Ashburton Fire Brigade was alerted to a fire in a building owned by Woodhams in the Ashburton Industrial estate just after 6pm and arrived to find the fire fully engaged.

Two large explosions, believed to be from LPG canisters, were heard as the fire raced through the Lignotech business and its neighbour Advanced Upholstery.

Smoke also billowed into the next business in the chain, New Zealand Couriers.

For Sue and Brian Stockdale, the fire was their second devastating loss in two years. The couple were forced to leave Christchurch after the February 22, 2011 earthquake destroyed their property.

They had started over in Ashburton and were gutted to find that for a second time their dreams had been shattered.

"We've lost everything. Thank goodness most of our stuff for clients had gone out yesterday and we'd taken our caravan home. There was just our work truck all our fabric and our camping gear on the floor. I guess we won't be going camping," Mrs Stockdale said.

As the shock of the fire began to ease, Mrs Stockdale said she was confident they could start their business again.

"We've been through this before and we know we can do it again."

For the Lignotech Developments team, the fire was devastating. They had an order for material destined for the United States that was destroyed in the blaze, along with irreplaceable research material.

LignoTech Developments is a company that uses proprietary steam explosion for biomass processing.

A member of the team, Gary Haskett said he was devastated by the fire.

"It's not easy to replace this stuff . It's unique, quite specialised what we do."

The company has a biomass lab on the first level of its building and flames were raging in this area. Within that area, biomass was drying in sealed ovens.

"I just can't understand what would have caused this," Mr Haskett said.

The Methven and Rakaia fire brigades were called in to assist Ashburton.

- Sue Newman of the Ashburton Guardian

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