‘Surgical’ operation to extinguish fire at smelter

The smelter at Tiwai Point. Photo: ODT files
The smelter at Tiwai Point. Photo: ODT files
An office building was destroyed at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter at the weekend in what was the second fire at the plant in a week.

Seven fire crews battled to extinguish the fire early yesterday. Fire and Emergency New Zealand southern communications shift manager Brent Dunn said crews were called to the fire at the smelter, near Bluff, about 2.45am.

The fire destroyed an internal building measuring 5m by 20m, between two potlines, Mr Dunn said.

"There were no injuries, nothing outside that building has been damaged, and production has not been affected. The plant is still running.

"It was a difficult, surgical operation, as there is so much electricity and hot molten metal everywhere, so crews had to be very careful."

They also had to take care with run-off.Site general manager Stew Hamilton said thankfully no-one was hurt and management was very grateful for the help of fire crews.

"We are currently having to manage some normally automated processes manually but don’t expect any long-term impacts on production.

"We will be working with the fire services to understand the causes of the fire throughout the week."

The fire was in an office block "near potline 3".

It comes after a landfill fire at the site on Wednesday.

By the time fire engines arrived the blaze had been extinguished by the smelter’s own crew.

— Additional reporting NZME

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