Light­ning sets of­fice ablaze

South Waikato News - - 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 Waikato.

Staff that op­er­ate out of the Pureroa DOC field of­fice on Bar­ryville Rd have been left dev­as­tated af­ter the blaze that raged early Wed­nes­day.

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 me­tre boxes on the power pole near the build­ings.

‘‘We’re 90 per cent sure that’s what caused the fire but we won’t know for sure un­til they do a test on the lines which run un­der­ground there,’’ Snow­ball said.

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.

Some of Man­gakino’s streets were al­ready sur­face flooded and an­other light­ning strike had set off the fire alarm at the Man­gakino Tele­phone Ex­change, cut­ting the main land­line net­work in the dark­ness.

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.’’

‘‘We had to wait for a wa­ter tanker to turn up and started do­ing wa­ter shut­tles from the nearby creek.’’

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.

‘‘We were able to save about 10 to 15 per cent of the build­ing. Half of it is on the ground and the rest of it has it’s roof caved in,’’ he said.

‘‘We had to wait for a wa­ter tanker to turn up and started do­ing wa­ter shut­tles from the nearby creek.’’

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