Heat from lamp sparked fire

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 22/01/2013

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A large halogen spotlight accidentally left on radiated enough heat to ignite nearby combustible material to cause last week's fire in a Halifax St building, fire investigator Lewis Jones said today.

He said human error combined with an electrical set-up that was "less than desirable" triggered the blaze which was close to a "flash-over" when fire crews arrived.

Staff and clients in Prego Mediterranean Foods and in Nelson's Elma Turner Library were evacuated as the fire took hold in the Nelson City Council-owned storeroom between Prego and the library.

Mr Jones last week said an "abundance" of combustible material had the potential to fuel a far more serious fire in the central Nelson building.

Today, he said a series of halogen floodlights, each with 1500 watt bulbs, had been placed on the floor of the storage area and one appeared to have been shifted to where it should not have been, and inadvertently left on.

"It was close enough that over time the heat radiated off it lit nearby combustible materials such as a whole lot of bedding and mattresses.

"There was a whole lot of domestic housing stuff stored in the room," he said.

The council last week said items stored in the building included equipment and props used to stage arts and summer festival events and while they were not expensive they would be difficult to replace.

Mr Jones said it was lucky the fire was contained to the storage room and that the robustness of the concrete building prevented it spreading to neighbouring premises.

"The place was close to a flash-over when fire crews arrived, which would have meant the fire would have burst out the doors on to Halifax St.

"Crews were confident that everyone had been evacuated by that time."

Mr Jones said the floodlights appeared to have been strung around the room via electrical extension cords, but only one of the lights was left on.

"From what we could ascertain the last person in the building was there 48 hours earlier. The lamp was in a place to suggest it had been shifted and accidentally left on.

"These lamps do create a lot of heat - they're like a mini heater and over time if anything is close it will catch fire."

Council parks and facilities manager Paul McArthur said, as with any incident like this, the council would be running its own internal investigation of issues which arose from the completed Fire Service report.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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