Restaurant extinguishers not ready for fire

World Bar in Queenstown was destroyed by fire.
World Bar in Queenstown was destroyed by fire.

Restaurant staff were unable to contain a devastating Queenstown fire because extinguishers hadn't been recharged after a 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, Ide said.

Firefighters from Otago and Southland fought the massive fire for three hours on Friday afternoon as hundreds of people watched. The restaurant and bar were 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," said Ide.

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. A thermal heat detection unit set off the alarm about the same time as the fire brigade received a 111 call.

Neighbouring buildings were also saved, although there was some smoke damage to the Station Building.

Flue fires were not uncommon, Ide said.

"It's just a shame that it's an iconic building. It has a following right throughout the world."

He was thankful the fire had not started in the early morning, when the popular bar would have been full.

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

Sunday Star Times