Serious fire at St Paul's Cathedral

The dean of St Paul's Cathedral is hoping this weekend's service will still go ahead despite the roof of the church being damaged by a fire this morning.

Dean of Dunedin's St Paul's Cathedral the Very Rev Dr Tony Curtis said the fire was not something he was expecting to wake up to this morning.

He said he arrived at the scene about 4.20am, but by that point the fire was "largely under control''.

The extent of the damage was still unclear, but he had been able to take a quick look inside.

"I'm hopeful from what I've seen inside the building that there's nothing structural, but we'll obviously wait for the assessors to come down and have a look.

"We were really concerned to protect the high altar and the organ, which is a really tremendous instrument which has been in 100 years this year.

''It's just going to be a large clean up job, we're going to have some work to do on that roof and we'll just start rebuilding from now.

''The priority for us will be to get the building operational, so that we can carry on with worship, so that we can carry on with our prayers for the people of the city and Otago and Southland.

"This building is a home for a lot of people and it's a home for the city, right in the heart of the Octagon, a lot of people are really concerned about it.''

He was installed as Dean in January, and the past weekend was the first time he had seen the building without scaffolding inside.

"It's a real shame now that we're going to have to do further work to the building, but I hope that people will have seen it in its glory at the weekend.

''We hope that people will rally around with us. We've got a job to do, but we'll get on and do it, and God will be with us.''

Crews were called to the fire about 3.30am. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Crews were called to the fire about 3.30am. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Dunedin fire crews put out the serious fire which was in the roof of St Paul's Cathedral, in The Octagon.Firefighters were called to the Anglican church, in the central city, at 3.35am.

It is not known if the fire is suspicious at this stage, but a fire investigator is at the scene.Fire and Emergency southern region shift manager Andrew Norris said getting to the roof had been challenging.

"They've been working with the turntable ladder to access and extinguish the fire, supported by crews within the building," he said.

Mr Norris said there were no injuries.

The firefighter in charge at the scene Senior Station Officer Simon Smith, from the central Dunedin station, said crews were at the salvage and investigation stage by 8am.

Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

At the height of the fire there were seven appliances and one aerial appliance at the scene.

The fire was not large, but being at the height it was added complexity, he said.

There was damage to the roof, but the extent would be assessed more closely now.

Fire crews would stay at the scene for a few hours

A spokeswoman for police said officers were also alerted to the fire about 3.30am, and began guarding the scene overnight.

Road closures are in place in Stuart St from Moray Pl at the top end of The Octagon to the centre of The Octagon, and in Moray Pl from Filleul St to Stuart St.

Firefighters assess the damage to St Paul's Cathedral following a fire in the roof this morning. Photo: Craig Baxter

Motorists should avoid the area or expect delays.

The Bishop of Dunedin, the Rt Rev Dr Steven Benford, told RNZ he had been inside the building and said there was smoke and water damage. He said he was optimistic that services could be held there soon.

Skylights in the roof of the cathedral's apse have been replaced over the past month.

Work started on the Oamaru stone-walled cathedral in 1915 after the diocese spent 10 years fundraising the £20,000 needed for construction to start.

In 1971, a modern chancel designed by Ted McCoy was added, built of concrete and sheathed inside and out with Oamaru stone to match the rest of the building.

Last year a celebration service was held at St Paul’s, marking 100 years since it was consecrated on February 12, 1919.

- ODT Online and RNZ




Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter