Burning tower’s sprinklers turned off
A central Auckland high-rise building’s fire hydrant system was not working when a fire broke out on Thursday, leaving firefighters in a ‘‘nightmare’’ situation.
Assistant area commander for the Fire Service Roger Callister said construction workers ‘‘must have disconnected’’ the 21-storey building’s fire hydrant system - pillars known as ‘‘risers’’, that transport water through each storey for fire hoses to be plugged into.
‘‘It was a nightmare,’’ he said.
‘‘We had a crew waiting up on the roof but no water to put the fire out.’’
Had the the fire been midstructure, the vast amounts of smoke would have made evacuating constructions workers in the building ‘‘extremely difficult’’, he said.
Fire crews had to carry ‘‘enormous’’ lengths of hose up 21 flights of stairs to reach the blaze on the roof of the Queen St building, which was being converted into a hotel.
‘‘It consumed a huge amount of people to run that length of hose, and you end up running into everybody - it added all sorts of challenges for us, logistical and physical,’’ Callister said.
‘‘The ridiculous thing is that the whole thing could have been done and dusted in 20 minutes if the risers had been operational.’’
As it was, the fire burned itself out before crews could get water to it.
A contractor was using a gas torch and attempting to cut away old equipment in the ‘‘plant room’’ at the top of the building, which houses equipment used for lifts, when the fire started.
A Fire Service spokesman said between 50 to 60 firefighters were part of the operation, which went from around 3pm to 4pm on Thursday.
Brett Russell from Dominion Constructors, who were converting the building into a hotel, said he thought around 100 construction workers would have been on site at the time.
Everyone was evacuated. Callister said Auckland Council had shut down renovations at the building until it complied fully with the building code’s fire regulations; ‘‘it’s in limbo now,’’ he said.
Callister said construction companies needed to understand the likelihood of fire increases in buildings under construction and maintain fire prevention mechanisms.
Smoke pours from the high-rise.