Arson ruled out in old villa blaze
The mystery surrounding the fiery demise of a century-old Waikato school house has been solved.
The building became a rural rental late in its life and the final tenant moved out of the Waingaro Rd property, west of Ngaruawahia, a fortnight before it went up in flames late last Monday night.
Owners Claire and Steven Field were struggling to understand how the "beautiful old villa" caught alight halfway through substantial renovations.
Fire investigator Dave Jenkins was initially unsure about the cause but he revisited the scene and has found the answer.
"It will be determined as accidental," he said.
A cable connecting the stove and the switchboard was twisted in a way that caused it to spark and catch fire.
"I think it's just one of those things and accidents do happen."
A firefighter was treated in hospital for heat exhaustion while battling the fierce fire.
Seven trucks from as far away as Te Kauwhata and Te Akau responded to the blaze. Every room in the four-bedroom building was in flames when the Ngaruawahia Volunteer Fire Brigade crew arrived shortly before 10pm.
Claire Field initially feared the fire may have been deliberately lit, but Jenkins' findings doused that speculation.
"It's so sad because it was a beautiful house, but it makes you aware of how friggen fast they go," Field said. "If there was anyone in there, they would have had to have got out very quick."
Field, who immigrated from England a decade ago, said the old school house was shifted on to the site in the 1990s.
It boasted high ceilings and a sturdy skeleton of dry native timber.