Staff at Taupo timber plant ravaged by fire to stay on, despite shut down
Plans are underway to find urgent work for 30 staff at a Taupo timber factory left unable to operate during the busiest time of the year due to a ferocious blaze.
New Zealand Timber Packaging's industrial plant in Tauhara has shut down after fire ripped through the main processing plant on Monday evening.
Crucial machinery in a silo reaching 12 metres high was destroyed in the fire that broke out around 8.30pm.
The company's managing director, Keith Jarman, said the company was working to get the site operating by Christmas.
"It appears as though the wind was blowing west so it's taken out a lot of the saw dust machinery in the inspection tower, the cyclone, electric motors and some of the timber stock.
"The fire brigade has done a great job at containing it so most of the main shed and machinery seems to be okay."
The focus of the company is to ensure the 30 employees have work, he said.
"The main thing is trying to figure out how to get things moving. We have workers that have families and we need to look after their jobs," he said.
"We will find bits and pieces of work, we will talk to some who can take some holiday - just so we can keep them all employed while we get back up and running."
All of the full time staff will be kept on, Jarman said, while some seasonal staff may have to find alternate work.
"Just for a few weeks while we get up and running."
With the sawdust hopper destroyed the company is unable to manufacture products on site heading into the busiest time of year, Jarman said.
"We do a lot of packaging for the horticultural industry and a lot are dependent on us at this time of year.
"It means we can't manufacture until we rebuild that system - if we get stuck into it straight away we could have it up and running by the end of the year.
"Our customers will not be affected. We are working on getting a temporary site and another firm in Napier has offered to fill any orders we are unable to do."
He said the fire appeared to have ignited in the extraction system.
"Whether something was smouldering I don't know, there was a strong wind last night.
"It's one of those things but you can't sit and mope you have to find a way to fix it."
At its peak about 56 firefighters from Taupo, Rotorua and Tokoroa battled to control the flames that shot up in the air, lighting up Taupo's skyline.
Everything inside the silo plant stretching 30 by 50 metres, and 18 metres high, has been ravaged by fire, Taupo fire brigade station officer John Gradwell said.
"The silo plant is destroyed."
Fire crews were called to the fire at 8.30pm on Monday and arrived at Manuka Street to find the silo engulfed in flames.
With no-one working at the time fire crews were forced to cut fences and gates to force entry into the site, Gradwell said.
"When we got there it was well involved. We set up low pressure deliveries and ground monitors."
Unmanned ground hoses were positioned to pump water out while firefighters started a "defensive mode" attack on the exterior to control the blaze enough to get inside.
The main fire was inside the silo hoppers, which carry sawdust, Gradwell said.
"The fire was extremely intense inside, everyone was wearing breathing apparatus and protective equipment."
A total of 14 fire trucks including aerial and command units were called in.