Storm trig­gers DOC of­fice blaze

Ruapehu Press - - Your Local News - PHILLIPA YALDEN AND FRANCES FER­GU­SON

A De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion of­fice has been razed af­ter a nearby trans­former was struck by light­ning amid a fierce storm that lashed the King Coun­try.

Staff that op­er­ate out of the Pureroa DOC field of­fice on Bar­ryville Rd have been left with­out a head­quar­ters af­ter last Wed­nes­day’s fire.

The fate­ful bolt was one of the 700 or so light­ning strikes that hit over land in the Waikato and Wait­omo re­gions in the six hours from 1am.

Around 4.30am a farmer go­ing out to milk his cows no­ticed the hue of the fire em­a­nat­ing from the field of­fices that is sit­u­ated about 1.5km from the main State High­way 30, Man­gakino Fire Chief Craig Snow­ball said.

Res­i­dents in the nearby vil­lage had also wo­ken to the light­ning, hear­ing the bang as it di­rectly struck the trans­former.

‘‘There has been a light­ning strike, which hit the trans­former and blew out two me­ter boxes on the power pole near the build­ings.’’

Snow­ball, who was wo­ken by his dog bark­ing as thun­der struck over Man­gakino, said light­ning was fir­ing up the skies as the crew made the 30km trip south.

By the time the first crews reached the site on Bar­ryville Rd, half of the sin­gle storey build­ing was in flames.

‘‘Half of it was al­ready on the ground - due to its vicin­ity and the lack of wa­ter out there.’’

Snow­ball said lo­cals had ral­lied and ar­rived with their own equip­ment, in­clud­ing a pump that was used to pump wa­ter from the creek to fill up the fire trucks ro­tat­ing from the blaze un­til a tanker ar­rived from Otoro­hanga.

All of the of­fice equip­ment, smoko room, and staff of­fices were de­stroyed, he said.

Some of the staff’s doc­u­ments sur­vived but that area of the of­fices had suf­fered smoke and wa­ter dam­age. DOC Op­er­a­tions manager based out of Te Kuiti, Natasha Hay­ward, said staff spent the morn­ing sal­vaging what they could. Up to 12 staff use the of­fi­cers. Three are per­ma­nently based there.

‘‘It’s been pretty dev­as­tat­ing.’’ Hay­ward said they are as­sess­ing if the team will be partly based in Te Kuiti, or at one of the build­ings at the base of Pure­ora.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant to have a base to work in the park.’’

She said they had man­aged to sal­vage ra­dio and field gear and a stone carv­ing donated by a lo­cal school. The bod­ies of two men who went miss­ing in the Ton­gariro Na­tional Park in early Au­gust have been found.

Friends Ha¯ kopa Ngaronoa, 26, and Vin­cent Tau­rima, 21, dis­ap­peared af­ter they al­legedly fled from a po­lice chase on the Desert Road. Po­lice said they found their re­mains on Satur­day.

A car was aban­doned on a track by Tree Trunk Gorge Rd, off the Desert Road, mid-af­ter­noon on Au­gust 12, po­lice said at the time.

Two days later, po­lice put out a state­ment say­ing they had se­ri­ous con­cerns for two men in their 20s who were lost in the bush – thought to be the driver and pas­sen­ger.

What turned into a four-week search through dense scrub was al­ready un­der way, and even­tu­ally in­volved po­lice, LANDSAR, spe­cial­ist search teams, po­lice na­tional dive squad, dogs, and hun­dreds of vol­un­teers.

The men’s wha¯nau was in­formed that their bod­ies were found, and po­lice iwi li­ai­son of­fi­cers of­fered sup­port, po­lice said.

The bod­ies were to be re­turned to their fam­i­lies.

The deaths will be re­ferred to the coro­ner.

FRANCES FER­GU­SON/STUFF

About 90 per cent of the Bar­ryville Rd DOC field of­fice was burned to the ground.

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