Hot burner 'ignited floorboards'

A fire that gutted the upper storey of a large split-level family home in central Motueka on Friday night was probably caused by heat from a solid fuel fire.

Fire investigator Rob Dalton said it appeared that the fire had begun in floorboards upstairs. A flue from a solid fuel firebox ran up through the house, and over time, the heat from it had "pyrolised' the floorboards, lowering the temperature at which they would ignite.

Once that had happened, something that raised the temperature, such as stoking the fire on a cold night, could cause them to ignite.

He said that was relatively common occurrence where solid fuel fires had been installed in open fireplaces, although that was not the case at the High St house.

Initial reports had suggested the fire had begun in a mattress but Dalton said that was not the case, although it appeared a mattress had been a good catalyst for the fire.

Motueka fire chief Mike Riddell had said the fire was "rather tricky" to fight, especially around the junction of the top and bottom storeys. "The top portion was absolutely destroyed, and the kitchen part was pretty much gutted. The floor was due to collapse so it's actually burned down quite a bit."

He added that the damage to the lower floor was mostly smoke and water damage.

The Nelson Mail