Factory inferno puts fireman in hospital
ALEX FENSOME AND MICHAEL DALY
The firefighter injured in a Petone factory blaze has serious burns to his arms and back, the Fire Service says.
The man was injured as more than 45 firefighters battled yesterday afternoon to get control of the blaze at motorsport seat company Racetech Systems.
Today the injured man was being transferred to the national burns centre in Auckland for further treatment, Fire Service region commander Assistant National Commander Ian Pickard said.
"It is very rare for a firefighter to be injured while fighting a fire and the thoughts of his colleagues from around the country are with him and his family," Pickard said.
"The Fire Service is doing everything possible to provide support to him and his family as he recovers from his injuries."
An investigation into what happened at the fire was under way.
A fellow firefighter dragged his scorched colleague to safety as a massive fire raged around th
He was treated for burns at the scene and taken to Hutt Hospital.
Fears over potential chemical hazards meant people in the area were advised to stay inside as black smoke poured from the building.
Fire crews battled for more than three hours to contain and extinguish the fire.
Leeana Moeahu, who was at a house opposite Racetech with sister Ariana and son Tearii, said seeing the man get injured was a shock.
"I tried to shield Tearii from seeing it . . . it's unexpected. You could see from [the firefighters'] facial expressions, they threw their gear to the ground, they were worried about him."
Fire Service assistant area commander David Key said there would be an internal investigation into how the man was injured.
More than 45 firefighters were on scene at the height of the fire, with aerial ladders and teams wearing breathing apparatus deployed.
"It was intense inside the building," Mr Key said. "We were experiencing a bit of difficulty putting it out."
Chemicals inside the store were in small quantities and not dangerous, he said.
Gas canisters were removed from the scene and contained by hazardous chemicals specialists.
The fire was brought under control and extinguished by about 5.30pm but three engines stayed at the scene overnight to monitor it.
Mr Key said fire investigators would be at the scene this morning to investigate the cause.
Racetech owner David Black could only stand and watch his business go up in flames. "I'm feeling absolutely gutted," he said. "I've been in a few building fires before but it doesn't make you feel any better when it's your own."
The company specialises in fibreglass seats for racing cars and other motorsport. It employs 15 staff. "The alarm went off, and I made sure everybody got out," he said.
He had insurance for the building.
Hutt Rd from Udy St south was cordoned off during the fire and adjacent businesses evacuated.
Jeanette Blockley, who works next door to Racetech at Live Interior Architecture + Design, said she and colleagues had smelt smoke and gone outside to look.
"There were lots of flames coming out and really black smoke," she said. "We've got a lot of imported fabrics and wallpaper . . . it's going to stink."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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