The New Plymouth Pistol Club has been hit by arsonists for the second time in just over 10 years.
In a scenario similar to 2003, when the building was completely destroyed, the clubrooms of the Devon Rd facility just north of Bell Block were extensively damaged after a fire was deliberately lit there early yesterday morning.
Emergency services were called to the club about 3.15am after a security alarm was activated. Upon arrival they found the northern end of the building on fire.
A club spokesman, who the Taranaki Daily News agreed not to name due to concerns the man had about being targeted by thieves, said members were pretty upset about what had happened.
He said he arrived at the building shortly after the alarm was raised and had to wait until the scene had been examined before being allowed to assess the damage for himself.
"But you could see the place was pretty badly burnt," said the spokesman.
Although no firearms or any ammunition is stored at the club, many of the club's trophies and memorabilia had been damaged by the fire, as had the kitchen and toilet block.
The building did not suffer any structural damage but the incident brought back memories of the 2003 arson which remains unsolved.
"That was a suspicious fire, like this one is," the spokesman said.
The club was insured and it was now a waiting game to see how long it would take to repair the damage, but he was clear that the club was at no risk of closing because of the fire.
"It's not going to stop the club functioning," he said.
Stratford CIB Detective Health Karlson said a scene assessment had been completed by police and a fire safety officer yesterday morning.
"It is a deliberate act of arson," he said.
At this stage there were no suspects and police were waiting on results from forensic tests carried out at the scene, Karlson said.
Waitara Fire Brigade's senior station officer Matt Smith said three engines had attended the blaze, one from New Plymouth and two from Waitara.
They were able to bring the fire under control within about 15 minutes.
The club, which is in its 50th year, has a strong membership and is also regularly used by Taranaki police for ongoing firearms training.
Police want to hear from anyone who may have seen any vehicles parked in and around the pistol club, near the entrance to Big Jim's Garden Centre or near De Havilland Drive around the time of the fire.
People with information can contact New Plymouth police station on (06) 759 5500.
- Taranaki Daily News
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