Lack of sprinklers blamed for losses

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014

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Major fire damage to the Hokonui Runanga in Gore would have been prevented if a sprinkler system had been installed in the complex, a fire safety boss says.

Southern fire investigator Stuart Ide arrived at the partially gutted runanga yesterday.

Early indications were that the fire started in a corner of the workshop, possibly caused by an electrical fault, but that was yet to be confirmed.

Ide said if a sprinkler system had been in the complex it would have saved major damage, with the complex now expected to be closed for months until parts of it are rebuilt.

The workshop and ablution block were destroyed and the dining and kitchen areas were badly damaged but a classroom and office space was saved by more than 40 volunteer firefighters, who tackled the blaze for up to three hours on Tuesday.

The fire was the third major blaze in Gore in weeks. The Livestock Supplies premises was destroyed in April because of an electrical fault and police are still investigating a suspicious building fire at East Gore School last week. Fire safety investigators have taken notice.

"For three big fires to happen in this [Gore] area in such a short period of time is certainly out of the ordinary," Ide said.

"That's why we want to take an interest in what's happening and why it's happening, so we can give the community all the support we can."

Some of that support entailed getting safety messages out to the public in a bid to prevent more premises being destroyed by fire.

He had already talked to staff of the runanga about the need to install sprinklers when it was rebuilt, he said.

"Sprinklers only activate in the area of the fire's origin and [the water] will contain and hold the fire until the fire service arrives to finish the job."

Hokonui Runanga executive director Terry Nicholas said the Gore community had rallied to the aid of runanga staff yesterday.

Several businesses had offered to provide storage space, another had offered to provide temporary office space for the runanga's staff and the Salvation Army had offered to help run the runanga's community services that offer assistance to the elderly and disadvantaged.

Other members of the community had rung in to offer their condolences about the fire and food had been dropped off at the runanga.

Nicholas said the runanga would continue to provide services to the community, with staff hoping to be in temporary offices within three weeks.

The runanga building, built 15 years ago and worth about $1 million, was insured, he said.

"We would expect to be fully operational again by Christmas."

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