Factory ‘five minutes away from disaster’

A fire broke out at Barnes Oysters in Invercargill this evening. Photo: Google Maps/screenshot
The Barnes Oysters building in Invercargill where a fire broke out on Sunday night. Photo: Google Maps/screenshot

A speedy response from firefighters and a newly installed alarm system saved Barnes Oysters from being razed by fire on Sunday night, general manager Graham Wright says.

"Luckily the processes that we use worked — if it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have a building. We were just five minutes away from disaster," Mr Wright said.

Mr Wright said he was grateful the newly installed alarm systems did their job.

"I wanted to sit here and cry this morning.

"The structural damage is very minimal, but there’s a lot of smoke damage."

The factory in Spey St, Invercargill, needed to be cleared of smoke contamination and its packaging materials replaced before operations could resume.

"A little bit of [smoke damage] goes a long way. We’ve got some specialist clean teams organised to come in."

The Food Safety Authority then had to recertify the building, he said.

Fire investigators were still on site yesterday morning to determine the cause of the blaze.

Mr Wright said heat detection alerted the alarm company to the fire, which had started in the processing area.

No oysters were on the premises at the time.

He suspected an electrical issue might have triggered the fire but wanted the investigators to complete their work.

The building was insured. He had high praise for both the quick response from Fire and Emergency New Zealand and his insurance company.

Mr Wright expected the factory would be non-operational for about a week.

Oyster opening operations had been unaffected as the boats had not been out.

"The weather is not good anyway, so we’re not missing anything."

Some staff were helping with the cleanup.

"We are just sort of getting ourselves organised and getting our ducks in a row ... and we’ve got a great team to work through and get the job done."

— Toni McDonald