Costumes saved but arts unit in ruins

16:00, Nov 19 2012

Principal Jenny Ellis was trying to see the bright side after Sunday night's fire at New Plymouth Girls' High School.

The school was open as usual and NCEA exams were able to continue unaffected yesterday.

And although the fire ruined the school's performing arts block, at least the store of valuable costumes were saved.

"It appears the costumes are salvageable. There has been a huge investment of time and money building the stock of costumes, so that's a positive," she said.

Mrs Ellis said it was fortunate the senior students had finished and there was plenty of space to house junior students who would have used the building.

"The few classes that would have been in there have been shifted to another area," she said.

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Investigations yesterday confirmed the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

A decision on whether to replace the building was up to the Ministry of Education, Mrs Ellis said. "It won't be until the ministry assess it that we will know what the next phase will be."

Mrs Ellis said the school had a reputation for its performing arts and the building was a big part of that.

"It's a really valuable asset," she said. "It was used for public performance, it's an intimate theatre."

Firefighters were alerted to the blaze about 10.45pm on Sunday night after reports of thick smoke billowing across Mangorei Rd.

It took firefighters more than five hours to put it out.

No-one was in the building at the time and no other buildings were damaged.

Taranaki fire safety officer Peter Gallagher said the blaze started near the sub-board for the electrical supply system.

"When the wire terminals come loose and the wires aren't held tight they arc and the electricity bridging the gap eventually gets hot enough to start a fire with surrounding material."

Taranaki Daily News