Derelict house fires test pa­tience


A Danger­ous Build­ing No­tice for a burnt out house plagu­ing the lives of Toko­roa’s fire­fight­ers couldn’t come quick enough, ac­cord­ing to chief fire of­fi­cer Dave Mor­ris.

Waste­ful is a tame way to de­scribe the 300- plus vol­un­teer hours that have been spent snuff­ing a se­ries of ar­son at­tacks on the El­iz­a­beth Drive home.

The no­tice was is­sued for the home, that has no cur­rent build­ing war­rant of fit­ness or fire de­tec­tion sys­tem, on Au­gust 7.

The sooner the eye­sore is gone the bet­ter, Mor­ris said.

His men have ‘‘ had an ab­so­lute gutsful’’ af­ter at­tend­ing 10 fires in the past 14 months.

‘‘With this par­tic­u­lar house, all my guys have had enough. They’re start­ing to take it per­son­ally now.’’

The lat­est fire was well in­volved when crews reached the house about 1.30am on Au­gust 2, fire com­mu­ni­ca­tions north­ern shift man­ager Jaron Phillips said.

Mor­ris said call­outs to this prop­erty gen­er­ally lasted be­tween two and three hours each time.

‘‘ Once you have ex­tin­guished the fire of course you have to go around damp­en­ing down hot spots.’’

The pre­vi­ous fire there was three weeks ago, at 4.30am. It was -4 Cel­sius out­side.

‘‘We’re all vol­un­teers and the last thing my guys want to do at that time is get out of a nice warm bed.

‘‘ We just see that ad­dress come up now and go ‘not this again’.’’

The no­tice is to re­move all dwelling roof­ing iron and de­bris in dan­ger of dis­lodg­ing but it also states that there is a high chance it will be de­mol­ished to en­sure no risk re­mains.

New Zealand Fire Ser­vice as­sis­tant area com­man­der Hamish Smith said the home had cost the New Zealand Fire Ser­vice more than 150 man hours in in­ves­ti­ga­tion time.

But the big­gest fi­nan­cial bur­den was on the com­mu­nity, he said.

‘‘For the Tok com­mu­nity the big­gest drain is on the good em­ploy­ers who re­lease vol­un­teers – they are the peo­ple be­ing pe­nalised.’’

And the district’s ser­vices are lim­ited.

‘‘If there is another in­ci­dent in Toko­roa at the same time we are drag­ging fight­ers from neigh­bour­ing bri­gades. I know that for a num­ber of those fires, fire­fight­ers from Pu­taruru have come to as­sist or have manned the Tok sta­tion in case another call hap­pens,’’ Smith said.

The home owner, who did not wish to be named, said she backed the idea of de­mol­ish­ing the house.

‘‘Well it’s un­safe and there’s no point hav­ing an un­safe build­ing is there.’’

A Toko­roa woman who last year pleaded not guilty to one charge of ar­son at the ad­dress will go to trial in Septem­ber. The max­i­mum im­pris­on­ment for ar­son is 14 years.


Fed up: Chief fire of­fi­cer Dave Mor­ris is hop­ing to se­cure a de­mo­li­tion order for an El­iz­a­beth Drive home that has been set alight 10 times al­ready.

Danger­ous build­ing: As it stands, the burnt out El­iz­a­beth Drive home is not safe for any­one to be in, ac­cord­ing to chief fire of­fi­cer Dave Mor­ris.

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