Fire at London's Kiwi House

Last updated 08:19 09/08/2012
Nicholas Greenslade

Kiwi House Fire

Kiwi House
The fire engulfs the outdoor area at Kiwi House in London, where NZers have been going to party during the Olympics.

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A large fire has broken out at Kiwi House in London after gas cyliners on an outdoor barbecue exploded.

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The garden area of the haven for New Zealand Olympic fans near King's Cross Station was in flames but there were no reports of injuries.

Onlookers posted photos of the fire on Twitter, with Andrew Scott writing: "One of the gas hoses to the BBQs caught on fire. Extinguishers didn't work, since then there have been 3-4 explosions."

Scott said everyone seemed to escape the area quickly.

Hayden Dahm had been in a queue to get into Kiwi House when he saw some people in the outdoor beer garden area start to move backwards.

At first he thought there might be a fight but then he saw large flames from the barbecue area about 30 metres to 40 metres from his position. The flames may have been as high as four metres.

"Then everyone just exited very very quickly," Dahm said.

Some were jumping a 1.5-metre high fence, knocking part of it down.

Within less than a minute police officers were on the scene.

A gas canister exploded, making "quite a large boom" and creating a bit of a shock wave.

A volunteer at the scene said no New Zealand athletes were there at the time of the explosion.

Around 6.35am (NZT) Kiwi House tweeted that it had a "rather large fire engulf the outdoor bbq area. Everyone is ok. We're closed till further notice."

The London Fire Brigade said the explosion was caused by two gas cylinders, which exploded before firefighters arrived at the scene.

"Crews have now brought the blaze under control and are cooling a further two gas cylinders down to make them safe," station manager Richard Welch said.

Around 300 people had been evacuated from nearby buildings and a temporary safety cordon of around 50 metres was set up as a precaution.

"Fortunately it doesn't look as though anyone was injured."

The brigade was called at 6.19am (NZT).

Crews were expected to be leaving the scene around 8.15am (NZT).

In its statement the brigade noted it had recently issued advice on "how to prevent barbecue fires during the Olympics".

Asked if it would be open again in time for the closing party, Kiwi House said it was way too early to tell.

"Just gotta get the situation under control and see what happens."

Kiwi House was opened by the New Zealand Olympic Committee on the eve of the Games and has proven popular with New Zealanders who can watch the live TV feed on the big screen, drink Kiwi beer and have lamb steaks on the barbecue.

The garden area was dotted with native trees.

It has a capacity of 300 and large queues have been a regular sight outside in recent days as New Zealanders follow the fortunes of their athletes.

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