Restaurant not equipped to deal with fire

The popular World Bar was completely destroyed by fire in central Queenstown on Friday night.
The popular World Bar was completely destroyed by fire in central Queenstown on Friday night.

Restaurant staff were unable to contain a devastating Queenstown fire because they had not fire recharged extinguishers after another fire a few days earlier.

Southern region fire safety officer Stuart Ide said Fat Badgers pizza restaurant staff used extinguishers from the restaurant and upstairs bar The World Bar a few days earlier when a fire started in a pizza oven.

They had not had time to have them recharged.

When Friday's devastating fire started in a deep frier they were unable to contain it using the only remaining extinguisher from The World Bar and a blanket, Mr Ide said.

Firefighters from throughout Otago and Southland fought the massive fire for three hours on Friday afternoon as hundreds of people watched in central Queenstown. The restaurant and bar were completely destroyed.

"It appears to have gone into the flue structure and from there it's spread up into The World Bar above but also spread laterally through the kitchen itself," Mr Ide.

It spread into the flue of the upstairs kitchen of The World Bar, burning through the material at a flexible joint but should have been held within the cell surrounding the flue.

"At some stage further back the integrity of the fire cell has been broken by a pipe."

A hole had been made in the wall of the cell to accommodate the pipe, which had previously been connected to an air conditioning unit. The unit had since been removed but the pipe and hole remained.

It would be up to insurance companies to decide whether they would pursue any charges, he said.

"At the end of the day, if the fire is accidental there won't be any charges later."

From the information he had received it appeared to have started in a deep fat vat frier but he was still unclear as to whether it was operator error or a fault in the frier.

However, it did appear to be accidental.

There were no sprinklers in the building but that was within regulations. There was a thermal heat detection unit which set off the alarm at about the same time the fire brigade received a 111 call.

Despite the total devastation of the bar a manager's office and another room which were protected by fire doors were almost completely undamaged.

Neighbouring buildings were also saved, although the Station Building suffered some smoke damage.

Flue fires were not uncommon, he said.

"It's just a shame that it's an iconic building. It has a following right throughout the world. From what I understand there's quite a few upset people."

He was thankful the fire had not started in the early hours of the morning when the popular bar was full.

"The chances of getting everyone out would be greatly reduced. Alcohol and people are not a good mixture when things go wrong."

Mr Ide said the fire service was holding a fire safety course for security guards and bar managers before the end of June and he expected it would be full.

The Southland Times