Christchurch buildings continue to burn

MICHELLE COOKE AND KEITH LYNCH
Last updated 12:51 08/12/2012
Daniel Tobin

The scene of Friday night's suspicious fire on Christchurch's High street.

Christchurch central city fire, 7 December 2012
Richard Cosgrove Zoom
UNDER INVESTIGATION: Fire inspectors examine the scene.

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Two Christchurch earthquake-prone buildings that caught fire last night are still smouldering this morning as fire fighters are unable to get close enough to extinguish them.

A massive blaze engulfed a three-storey empty building on the corner of Tuam and High Street about 9.20pm and another fire broke out in another empty building on Moorhouse Ave, at 10.10pm, south fire communications shift manager Andrew Norris said. 

The buildings are only about a kilometre apart and are located near the red zone. Both are in fenced-off properties, Christchurch central area commander Steve Kennedy said.

They were being treated as suspicious, but it was too early to speculate on whether the fires were connected or what was behind the blaze, Kennedy said.

Both buildings were still smouldering this morning as they are earthquake-prone, meaning fire fighters have only been able to attempt to extinguish the fires from the outside.

The Fire Service would consult with police and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority today on the best way to extinguish the fires, Kennedy said.

It was likely that excavators would be brought in later today.

The first building to catch alight last night was the historic Billings building, which is located next door to the McKenzie & Willis building at the corner of Tuam and High St.

The building partially collapsed about 10.25pm, with a loud roar.

Flames were shooting about 10 metres into the air above the building. Plumes of smoke rose high above the north-east of the central city as the fire raged.

Witness Liberty Parsons said the blaze was "massive".

"I was driving down Tuam St, so right next to it basically. There was smoke for blocks."

Eight fire trucks battled the blaze, while a number of others were called to the fire on Moorhouse Ave nearly an hour later.

This first video was uploaded to youtube by Marc McCarthy:

 

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