Fire under investigation

23:38, Jan 08 2014
Lewis Jones
Cause unknown: Nelson Marlborough fire investigator Lewis Jones said the Budge St dairy was still structurally sound but badly damaged by smoke and heat

Determining the cause of a blaze that gutted a Blenheim dairy will be like piecing together a huge jigsaw puzzle, Nelson Marlborough fire investigator Lewis Jones says.

Piles of charred rubble and burnt plastic littered the floor of the On The Spot Riversdale store yesterday morning as Mr Jones started his investigation.

He estimated it would take at least another day to find out what sparked the Budge St fire.

"I'm picking off areas of interest," he said. "It's all a process of elimination."

The flames were confined to the storage area at the back of the building. It was still structurally solid but had been badly damaged by heat and smoke, Mr Jones said.

"There was a tremendous heat build-up.


"It's a huge jigsaw puzzle. It's just a matter of getting the pieces to fit in."

Blenheim chief fire officer Rob Dalton said four fire appliances and 25 firefighters, including a crew from Renwick, had the fire under control within 30 minutes. They were called to the scene about 5am yesterday.

A passing motorist raised the alarm after seeing smoke and flames coming from the back of the store.

No-one was in the building at the time of the fire.

The owner was on her way to work when she was alerted by a neighbour, Mr Dalton said.

The building was locked when firefighters arrived so they smashed a glass panel on the front door to get inside.

The building clear of neighbouring houses, Mr Dalton said. "There was no danger of the fire spreading."

Firefighters remained at the scene for more than two hours monitoring hotspots.

There was no indication at this stage the fire was suspicious, Mr Dalton said.

Meanwhile, the owner of a nearby backpackers' hostel said he woke up to smoke and flames blowing towards his property.

Arrow Backpackers owner Bruce Lee said he decided to evacuate his Budge St hostel as a precaution. Mr Lee said his wife was in the kitchen when a guest told her of the fire, just after 5am.

About 20 people were staying in the backpackers at the time. He got them all up and out onto the street.

"The smoke and fire was lifting up and the wind was blowing in this direction," he said.



The owner of a Blenheim wholesale food company that lost most of its stock in a fire last year has offered support to the owners of On The Spot Riversdale, which was razed early yesterday.

Up Marketing Wholesale Food Distributors owner Jason Clark, who co-owns the business with John Gilbert, reassured the dairy owners that it was possible to get back on their feet.

Business is back to normal for Mr Clark and Mr Gilbert after a fire at the premises they leased at Timandra Place in October.

The pair are planning on rebuilding in Timandra Place this year, Mr Clark said.

"We couldn't muck around, we got straight back into it," he said. "It's a lot of work, but don't hold back."

He wished the owners of the dairy luck and offered them storage space if they needed it.

"I certainly feel sorry for them," he said.


The Marlborough Express