Staff gut­ted af­ter fire

Central Leader - - News - By Heather McCracken

STAFF are back at work amongst the man­gled wreck­age of last week’s fire at an One­hunga car parts com­pany.

Strong for Honda di­rec­tor War­ren Strong says some staff are work­ing out­side and do­ing dou­ble shifts while the weather holds.

“We’ll sur­vive this. It could have been much worse,” he says.

But re­build­ing will be a long process, with the cost of dam­age and lost stock es­ti­mated at $5 mil­lion.

Mr Strong says he’s still com­ing to terms with the ex­tent of the blaze.

“The staff are dev­as­tated,” he says.

“Some of th­ese guys have worked here for 10 years and it’s all hand-built. This was state of the art as far as the in­dus­try is con­cerned.”

The fire started on Thurs­day morn­ing af­ter weld­ing sparks dropped into fuel run-off.

Mr Strong says the welder had a fire ex­tin­guisher with him, but im­me­di­ately re­alised the fire was too big to fight.

“As soon as the spark went in he saw it was too late. He ran to the alarm and smashed that and then the site cleared pretty quickly.”

Clouds of thick black smoke could be seen for kilo­me­tres as the fire took hold.

But Mr Strong, who was work­ing at an­other site in Te Pa­papa, wasn’t con­cerned when first alerted to the blaze.

“I said: ‘Give me a call when it’s out’. They said: ‘You’d bet­ter come down and have a look’.”

All staff are now back at work at the An­gle St site, which pro­cesses 700 cars ev­ery week.

The fire-dam­aged build­ing is not weath­er­proof, so a con­crete wall has been built to hold con­tam­i­nants washed out dur­ing rain.

The pol­lu­tants are then pumped out by sucker truck.

Wa­ter and foam from fire­fight­ing was con­tained by a $1m pol­lu­tion-con­trol sys­tem put in place a year ago.

“It looked like overkill at the time, but you can see why we needed it now,” Mr Strong says.

The fire also de­stroyed his brother Dave Strong’s rally car, tools and a year’s sup­ply of tyres.

“He’s still got last year’s car that luck­ily was at home in his garage,” he says.

Other build­ings on the site were spared, al­low­ing sales and ad­min­is­tra­tion work to con­tinue.

Chief fire of­fi­cer Gra­ham Fuller says 20 trucks and more than 70 fire­fight­ers re­sponded to the fire.

The ini­tial re­sponse was to put up a “wa­ter cur­tain” to pre­vent the blaze spread­ing.

He says all staff were evac­u­ated quickly and safely, and nearby busi­nesses were cleared as a pre­cau­tion.

Photo: BEN CAMP­BELL

Af­ter­math: Di­rec­tor War­ren Strong says last week’s fire caused $5 mil­lion of dam­age at Strong for Honda in One­hunga.

Photo: FIONA GOODALL

Dark day: Smoke bil­lows from the Strong for Honda site on Thurs­day.

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