Fire races through Invercargill boutique

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2012
Jo Singer
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
DEVASTATION: Boutique owner Jo Singer looks at the devastation. A shop at the front of the building had opened only on Monday.

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The spring and summer collections of New Zealand designers have been destroyed in a fire that damaged an Invercargill business on Tuesday and devastated the shop's owner.

Fire crews were called to Land South Apparel and Rath boutique, formerly Apteryx Clothing on Dee St, about 10.20pm on Tuesday and the street was cordoned off by police.

The building was severely damaged by the fire.

Owner Jo Singer said yesterday she opened the clothing manufacturing business in the leased building just under a year ago, and employed 15 staff - and on Monday she had opened a shop at the front of the building to sell her designs.

It was difficult to express how devastating it was to see the wreckage left behind after the fire, she said.

"This has just been my dream to be here - dream job, dream business, dream everything," she said. "You just can't describe it."

Her designs, patterns, machinery, fabrics and staff artwork, as well as much of the work she had produced for the spring-summer collections of Kiwi designers, had been destroyed, she said.

"It's not just my livelihood, it's 15 other people and our customers. We've got big deadlines that aren't going to be able to be met now."

She was alerted to the fire by a security firm, and returned to find emergency services at the scene and smoke pouring from the building.

"Smoke was absolutely billowing out. I didn't see the flames but you could hear the windows creaking, and you could just about feel the heat from the footpath," Mrs Singer said.

She was insured and while she was determined to carry on her business, the loss was devastating and she was unsure of her next steps, she said.

Garments destined for Auckland Fashion Week had thankfully been shipped out of the store before the fire, she said.

Fire risk management officer Southland Paul Glanville said an iron left on appeared to have caused the fire.

"Even though this was a commercial premises, that whole pre-bed electrical safety check at home still pertains to business environments as well," he said.

"It's just about making sure everything that needs switching off, has been switched off."

Invercargill fire brigade senior station officer Daniel Middlemiss said four appliances attended the fire, and crew remained at the scene until about 1.30am dampening down hotspots and ventilating the building.

Unusually, the fire had been what was known as a ‘flashover', which meant it had largely extinguished itself by the time fire crews arrived, he said.

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The front half of the building was significantly damaged, but a closed rear door helped save the back, he said.

"That just shows the importance of shutting doors when you're not using that room. A lot of people aren't aware of it, but it is very significant even in allowing you more time to get out [of a burning building], and it stops the smoke spreading as well."

- The Southland Times

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