Factory fire in Onehunga

JESS TASMAN-JONES, MICHAEL FOX AND IMOGEN NEALE
Last updated 18:36 16/01/2012

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One fire truck remains at the scene of an Onehunga factory fire that injured five people today and will stay there into the night in case it flares back up.


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Workers were evacuated from the Textile Products factory in Miami Parade, along with staff at neighbouring businesses.

Textile Products receptionist Kimberly Miller was in the firm's second building across the road when she saw the fire erupt just after 11am.

"All I saw was black smoke coming up and I originally thought ChemWaste was on fire, I didn't actually realise it was our building.

"It was originally just black smoke and it got thicker and thicker and then you could see flames coming out the top of our building and then a couple of minutes after the smoke started the fire service arrived and dealt with it from there."

She said her production manager called the Fire Service and crews arrived within "three to four minutes".

Miller said English was a second language for many workers in the building at the time of the fire and there had been some difficulty finding out what happened.

She believed the fire started in a part of the factory used to manufacture felt bedding products.

A fire spokesman said the building, which measured about 50m by 100m, was well ablaze when firefighters arrived.

He said the building was too dangerous to enter and firefighters were battling flames from outside.

Fire Service incident controller Brian Edwards said that as at 12.30pm, 11 fire trucks and 50 firefighters remained at the scene.

They were unable to get inside the building, so were fighting the blaze with aerial appliances. The building has been destroyed and they expected to be at the scene all day.

Edwards said there was a possibility the smoke and fumes could be toxic.

"We will have to decontaminate some of the firefighters."

Firefighters covered in black smoke and soot could be seen emerging from the scene and dozens of local workers were watching events unfold.

The cause of the fire was unknown, but investigators were at the scene.

FEARS OVER HAZARDOUS WASTE

Edwards said there was initial concern that the fire would spread to a neighbouring hazardous materials company, Chemwaste, but the smoke was soon blowing in the opposite direction.

A ChemWaste spokesman said at any time there could be flammable gas and liquid, infectious substances and other toxic products on site.

Assistant area commander Steve Lakin said there was potentially nasty septic tank waste being treated at ChemWaste.

A concrete wall divides the two buildings and firefighters made sure the wall remained "cool".

He said the fire service had water on the fire within 10 minutes.

Lakin said the 100 per cent polyurethane product was used to fill furniture and there's "not a lot left" of the building it was stored in.

He said burning plastic gives off thick smoke that's "quite spectacular".

A St John ambulance spokesman could not comment on the nature of the patients' injuries but said they were unlikely to be transported to hospital.

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'FLAMES ALL OVER THE SHOW'

A man at Ward Demolition next door said the building had quickly erupted into flames once the fire caught on.

"It didn't take long and there was smoke and flames all over the show. It was a big fire."

Tom Gasnier said his colleagues had earlier seen flames "shooting out" from the building.

Chris Wilson, 28, who lives in an apartment above the car dismantlers and next door to Textile Products, said he'd just got out of the shower when he smelt the smoke.

He heard his naming being called by someone from the factory downstairs.

He got out of the building but was worried his personal belongings would go up in flames.

"Luckily it's all under control," he said.

The musician said while living in an industrial area did have its downside - such as living next to hazardous products - there were positives.

"I can make as much noise as I like and there's no noise control."

Police were at the scene and have put cordons in place.

Vector was at the scene isolating power supply.

One woman at a workshop on nearby Angle St said traffic was bumper to bumper with drivers looking to catch a glimpse of the fire.

According to the Textile Products website, the family-owned business was established more than 50 years ago and specialises in fibrefills, insulation, waddings and blankets.

It says the factory, which employs 25 staff, is approximately 11,000 square metres in size.

- Auckland Now

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