Repeated arson attacks cost fire service

PETRICE TARRANT
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014

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South Waikato firefighters are fuming after spending hundreds of hours tackling repeated arson attacks on a derelict Tokoroa house.

A Dangerous Building Notice for a burnt out house couldn't come quick enough, according to Tokoroa chief fire officer Dave Morris.

Wasteful is a tame way to describe the 300-plus volunteer hours that have been spent snuffing out a series of arson attacks on the Elizabeth Drive home.

The notice was issued for the home, which has no current building warrant of fitness or fire detection system, on August 7.

The sooner the eyesore is gone the better, Morris said. His staff have "had an absolute gutsful" after 10 fires in 14 months. "With this particular house, all my guys have had enough. They're starting to take it personally now."

In the latest fire, crews reached the house about 1.30am on August 2, fire communications northern shift manager Jaron Phillips said.

Morris said callouts to the property generally lasted between two and three hours each. "Once you have extinguished the fire, of course, you have to go around dampening down hot spots."

The previous fire there was three weeks ago, at 4.30am. It was minus four degrees Celsius outside.

"We're all volunteers and the last thing my guys want to do at that time is get out of a nice warm bed.

"We just see that address come up now and go ‘not this again'."

The notice is to remove all dwelling roofing iron and debris in danger of dislodging but it also states there is a high chance it will be demolished to ensure no risk remains.

Fire New Zealand assistant area commander Hamish Smith said the house has cost the New Zealand Fire Service more than 150 hours in investigation time. But the biggest financial burden is on the community, he said.

"For the [Tokoroa] community the biggest drain is on the good employers who release volunteers - they are the people being penalised." And the district's services are limited.

"If there is another incident in Tokoroa at the same time we are dragging fighters from neighbouring brigades. I know that for a number of those fires, firefighters from Putaruru have come to assist or have manned the [Tokoroa] station in case another call happens," Smith said.

The owner said she backed the idea of demolishing the house. "Well, it's unsafe and there's no point having an unsafe building, is there."

A Tokoroa woman will go on trial in September.

 

WHO PAYS?

South Waikato District Council building control manager Kevin Duthie said the owner will bear the cost of any debris removal or demolition. Failing that the council can place a statutory land charge on the property. The council committed $20,000 towards being more proactive with poorly kept houses during the 2014-15 year, he said.

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- Waikato Times

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