Rendering plant gutted by fire

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2014
Fairfax NZ

Multiple fire brigades called to a fire in a building at Taranaki By-Products.

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A South Taranaki business that has been in the family for generations was left in ashes after fire ripped through it yesterday.

Emergency services were called out to the Taranaki By-Products plant, in Kohiti Rd near Okaiawa, around noon. No-one was inside at the time of fire.

The rendering plant is believed to be one of the largest animal by-product processing factories in the country.

Hawera chief fire officer Darryl Fowler said the site was "well involved" by the time fire crews arrived.

A total of 45 firefighters and 12 fire engines from Okaiawa, Hawera, Eltham, Stratford, Manaia, Kaponga and New Plymouth fought the fire.

Firefighters spent 40 minutes controlling the fire and spent more time dampening down hot spots.

The plant's co-owner Amanda Smith was "very upset" when she heard the news.

"It's an absolute nightmare," Ms Smith said. "It's a family business that was started by my great-grandfather, so it's very important to us."

Ms Smith said her first thoughts were their workers' safety. "But no-one was hurt, that was our priority," she said. "You can't replace people, but you can replace things."

Ms Smith said it was still early days to say what effect the fire would have on the business and its employees.

The factory had three separate sites and the affected area employed 50 workers.

"At this stage, they can't be on site until it's been declared safe," Ms Smith said.

But Kiwis are resilient people and Ms Smith said they will "get it sorted".

Taranaki fire safety officer Matt Crabtree said the fire had spread to the roof between the plant's boiler room and dryer area.

Mr Crabtree said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

Taranaki fire service area commander Pat Fitzell said the Okaiawa crew was the first to attend the incident and they were "automatically backed up" by Hawera.

"Once they found out the size of the fire, they called for greater support," Mr Fitzell said.

Two water tankers from Hawera and an onsite water supply allowed firefighters to get the fire under control rather quickly, Mr Fitzell said.

He said sulphuric acid was mainly used in the plant.

"Luckily, that was not involved as it was kept in a separate side of the plant."

A fire had broken out in the factory's dryer area in March last year.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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