Burn­ing tower’s sprin­klers turned off

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - STAFF REPORTER

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.

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