Ar­son at­tack on church could have been worse

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KARO­LINE TUCKEY

Porirua Gospel Chapel mem­bers are dev­as­tated by the torch­ing of their Sun­day school in one of a se­ries of Queen’s Birth­day ar­son at­tacks, but quick think­ing has saved them from a big­ger loss.

The fire was the third lit, at 8:30pm on June 4 at the back of the church, and set alight a large stor­age cup­board in the Sun­day school room con­tain­ing equip­ment used in the church’s so­cial work.

‘‘It’s a bit of a mess. I es­ti­mate the to­tal would be about $70,000 with re­pairs and ev­ery­thing,’’ Brian McGet­ti­gan, PGC el­der said.

‘‘It’s not nice, we put the time and ef­fort into it and then some­one comes and does this and I think the whole church was a bit gut­ted when they walked in and saw what had hap­pened.’’

A morn­ing church ser­vice was held the day af­ter the fire so peo­ple con­nected to the church could see the dam­age to­gether as a com­mu­nity, he said.

‘‘The kids had a look at what had hap­pened and their par­ents were there to ex­plain it.’’

Much of what was de­stroyed was for the church’s com­mu­nity outreach, in­clud­ing a bank of 18 com­put­ers used for a school hol­i­day pro­gramme to keep Can­nons Creek youth off the street, dress ups for dra­mas and re­sources for an English lan­guage pro­gramme, which were all de­stroyed.

How­ever, if not for a lucky glance from a church mem­ber liv­ing next door, things could have been much worse.

‘‘She was in her bath­room and looked out and saw the church on fire,’’ Mr McGet­ti­gan said.

‘‘ Be­cause she acted very quickly and di­alled 111 and the fire brigade got here so quickly the fire was far less than what it could have been.

‘‘ The poly­styrene pack­ing around the com­put­ers caught very quickly, there’s a lot of heat in it and the plas­tics they are made of.’’

‘‘ It would have just about ex­ploded out if the fire brigade hadn’t got there, and the whole chapel would have burnt, it was amaz­ing they got there so quickly and put it out. They did a fan­tas­tic job in con­trol­ling it,’’ he said.

The spot the fire was lit seemed to in­di­cate knowl­edge of the build­ing, Mr McGet­ti­gan said, and along with the fact the next fire lit was at a gospel chapel in Wainuiomata shortly af­ter­wards, he won­dered if there was a con­nec­tion be­tween the ar­son­ist and the church.

Six fires were lit in Porirua, along with PGC – at Tony’s Tyre Ser­vice, St Al­bans Church in Pau­ata­hanui, a house near Kenepuru Hos­pi­tal, a Por­taloo in Tawa and Horouta Marae.

A 43-year-old Porirua man ap­peared in Lower Hutt District Court last week, fac­ing 11 charges in­clud­ing ar­son, at­tempted ar­son and theft.

Photo: KENT BLECHYNDEN/DO­MIN­ION POST

DAM­AGED: Church mem­ber Bill Hiku at the scene of the fire in the Porirua Gospel Chapel.

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