String of fat fires prompts warning

The fires which earlier this year destroyed Queenstown's Fat Badgers Pizza, the World Bar and extensively damaged Wanaka's Fitzpatrick's Irish Pub are part of a series of fires involving deep fat vat fryers and ''inappropriate'' extinguishers.

There have been six fires within four years across Otago involving commercial vats that fire risk management officer Stu Ide, based in Queenstown, has attended.

Mr Ide said all did not have the correct extinguisher for oil, a class F fire, which should be put out with a wet chemical extinguisher.

Because of this, insurance companies were now faced with paying out claims totalling millions of dollars, he said.

In the recently completed fire investigation reports into the Fat Badgers Pizza and associated World Bar fire and Fitzpatrick's Irish Pub fire, Mr Ide said these, plus four others, were ''either preventable or controllable had the operators been aware of the dangers involved with commercial cooking vats''.

The other fires involving commercial vats were at the Bannockburn pub in 2009, Thai Crom restaurant in 2010, Alexandra's Pie Cart in 2012 and a Chinese takeaway, the Tai Ping, in Dunedin in July.

On May 24, the World Bar and Fat Badgers Pizza restaurant were destroyed by a fire that started downstairs in the restaurant's kitchen.

The fire has been ruled as accidental, based on the information available, with the cause being the thermostat capillary tubes not being submerged in oil in the fryer, thus not being able to control the temperature of the oil. There had been insufficient oil to do this.

A staff member tried to put out the fire with a borrowed dry powder extinguisher from the World Bar, as the restaurant had used its extinguishers to put out a fire three days earlier. When this appeared to aggravate the fire, a fire blanket was used, also unsuccessfully.

The fire spread upstairs to the nightclub via a fume extracting system.

The fire in Fitzpatrick's Irish Bar, on June 9, was found to have been caused the deep fat vat fryer not having a working fail-safe thermostat when the primary thermostat failed.

A water-based extinguisher was used, Mr Ide said.

His findings have prompted a recommendation to the New Zealand Fire Service to actively promote ''the safe use of commercial cooking vats and the safe use of the correct extinguisher for this type of fire''.

A World Bar representative said the business' managers were saying ''we are moving forward with the rebuild plan''.

The bar had opened a temporary nightclub, also in Shotover St, and had reapplied for a licence for the original site.

Fat Badgers Pizza co-owner Anthony Waldock has previously said the restaurant was seeking to re-establish and yesterday said he had no comment to make about the fire report's release.

Fitzpatrick Irish Pub co-owner Brendan Quirke said the pub would be reopening in late November at the same site and he had been in contact with Mr Ide about how to improve fire safety.

''It's been a big wake-up call for everyone.''


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