House target of 10 fires in 14 months

Firefighters fed up with repeated arson attacks

PETRICE TARRANT
Last updated 14:42 12/08/2014
arson house
PETRICE TARRANT/Fairfax NZ

DANGEROUS BUILDING: As it stands, the burnt out Elizabeth Drive home is not safe for anyone to be in, according to chief fire officer Dave Morris.

Dave Morris
PETRICE TARRANT/Fairfax NZ
FED UP: Chief fire officer Dave Morris is hoping to secure a demolition order for an Elizabeth Drive home that has been set alight 10 times already

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South Waikato fire fighters are fuming after spending hundreds of hours tackling repeated arson attacks on a derelict Tokoroa house.

A Dangerous Building Notice for a burnt out house couldn't come quick enough, according to Tokoroa chief fire officer Dave Morris. 

Wasteful is a tame way to describe the 300-plus volunteer hours that have been spent snuffing a series of arson attacks on the Elizabeth Drive  home.

The notice was issued for the home, that has no current building warrant of fitness or fire detection system, on August 7.

The sooner the eyesore is gone the better, Morris said.

His men have ''had an absolute gutsful'' after attending 10 fires in the past 14 months.

''With this particular house, all my guys have had enough. They're starting to take it personally now.''

The latest fire was well involved when crews reached the house about 1.30am on August 2, fire communications northern shift manager Jaron Phillips said.

Morris said callouts to this property generally lasted between two and three hours each time.

''Once you have extinguished the fire of course you have to go around dampening down hot spots.''

The previous fire there was three weeks ago, at 4.30am. It was -4 degrees outside.

''We're all volunteers and the last thing my guys want to do at that time is get out of a nice warm bed.

''We just see that address come up now and go 'not this again'.

''The notice is to remove all dwelling roofing iron and debris in danger of dislodging but it also states that there is a high chance it will be demolished to ensure no risk remains.

Fire New Zealand assistant area commander Hamish Smith said the home has cost the New Zealand Fire Service more than 150 man hours in investigation time. But the biggest financial burden is on the community, he said.

''For the Tok community the biggest drain is on the good employers who release volunteers -  they are the people being penalised.''

And the district's services are limited.

''If there is another incident in Tokoroa at the same time we are dragging fighters from neighbouring brigades. I know that for a number of those fires, firefighters from Putaruru have come to assist or have manned the Tok station in case another call happens,'' Smith said.

The home owner, who did not wish to be named, said she backed the idea of demolishing the house.

''Well it's unsafe and there's no point having an unsafe building is there.''

A Tokoroa woman who last year pleaded not guilty to one charge of arson at the address will go to trial in September.

The maximum sentence for arson is 14 years' imprisonment.

WHO PAYS?

South Waikato District Council building control manager Kevin Duthie said the owner will bear the cost of any debris removal or demolition.

Failing that the council can place a statutory land charge on the property.

''Our towns are all tarnished with the same brush when dilapidated and poorly kept houses degrade nice neighbourhoods.''

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The council committed $20,000 towards being more proactive with poorly kept houses during the 2014-15 year, he said.

- South Waikato News

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