Police seek owner of unit at seat of fire

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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A suspicious fire that ripped through a Kilbirnie self-storage building began with an explosion in a unit belonging to a man who is known to police.

The contents of the unit at the heart of last Friday's fire at Kiwi Self Storage remain a mystery, as police continue to hunt for its owner.

They are continuing to treat the fire as having been lit deliberately, but say there is no suggestion the owner was responsible.

The fire began in the early hours of Friday and burned late into the evening, ripping through about 200 units, consuming people's valued possessions, including photographs, heirlooms and Oscar statuettes.

Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Ferguson said the owner of the unit was known to Wellington police, and they had taken items from his second-storey unit, identified by investigators as the "seat" of the fire.

"It appears that there may have been some sort of explosion within that unit," he said.

Police had been unable to establish yet where the owner lived. "We are trying to find him, but it is proving quite difficult at the moment.

"At this stage, there is no suggestion he is responsible for whatever actually happened. We want to speak to him and find out what was contained in the unit."

Police had taken exhibits from his unit which, along with other upper-storey units, was "absolutely gutted".

"Items have been seized and taken away for forensic examination to determine whether an accelerant was used."

The explosion was not believed to be related to any drugs manufacturing activity, Ferguson said.

"Police are not treating it as a methamphetamine lab. There is no evidence to suggest that it was in any way related to that."

Officers were hoping CCTV footage would help them determine exactly what happened.

An estimated 200 storage units were affected by the fire. Some were completely destroyed and many of the contents of the less-affected ground floor units had smoke or water damage.

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- The Dominion Post

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