Blaze destroys shed in Frankton

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012

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Two weeks after welding equipment underwent a safety check and deemed safe, an electrical fault in the equipment sparked a blaze that destroyed a shed attached to a house in Frankton late yesterday morning.

Five homes opposite the site of the fire on Riverside Rd were evacuated for almost an hour. Two fire engines and 15 firefighters quickly got the blaze under control, but spent over an hour damping down hotspots and ensuring the site was safe to be inspected by a Lakes Environmental hazardous substances officer.

Shortly after inspecting the site the officer said his visit was a "formality," and there were no hazardous substances on the property.

However, yesterday's visit was not the first inspection of the property. Queenstown Lakes District Council spokeswoman Jo Blick said it had been checked for hazardous substances recently.

"We've had confirmation from Lakes Environmental that they did receive a complaint regarding the property . . . on November 4 this year," she said. "The complainant thought the property was possibly being used to run a business and raised concerns in regards to the storage of welding equipment and hazardous substances.

"(Council contracted) Lakes Environmental who did a site visit and was happy that the work being done on site was a private activity and the equipment on site and volume of any substances stored were all permitted under District Plan and Hazardous Substances regulations."

The home's occupants declined to comment on the cause of the fire.

Southland fire risk management officer and fire safety officer Paul Glanville said the "indicative cause" of the fire was an electrical fault in a MIG welder.

MIG welders use carbon dioxide, and the cylinders containing the gas are fitted with a venting valve to avoid explosions.

The cylinder had vented by the time firefighters arrived. The gas was not the cause of the fire, but the flames resulting from the electrical fault had spread to "typical combustibles" stored in the shed and its wood framing.

"It was well alight by the time firefighters got there, but thankfully was brought under control quickly."

The fire was another warning that smoke detectors in homes should be checked every month, Mr Glanville said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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