Waikato's top fire boss is crediting an efficient sprinkler system for saving lives and potentially millions of dollars of damage in a Hamilton fire this morning.
Area commander Roy Breeze said the sprinkler system contained a fire at Spotlight in Te Rapa that had the potential to burn into "a major blaze".
"Without it the fire could have spread very quickly given the amount of stock inside that building and certainly people could have been trapped," he said.
Investigators believe the fire, that started about 7.45am, was caused by an electrical fault. Two staff were treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation, according to St John operations team manager Cath Shannon.
Seven Spotlight staff escaped the building where the fire was contained to one rack of pillows.
Manager Debbie Trow was still shaking when spoken to by Waikato Times but heaped praise on her staff who she said "managed the evacuation well".
"Everything went smoothly, we realised by the time we saw all the smoke there was not a lot we could do, the sprinklers were working and we had to evacuate," she said.
Ms Trow had been working in the storeroom at the rear of the 60m x 20m retail space while four others were busy stacking shelves ahead of opening time when the fire alarm went off.
"We are just waiting for our support people to arrive from Auckland to decide what happens from here, we need to assess the damage to stock before any decisions are made around opening."
"Maybe the upside for customers is that there could be a very good fire sale coming up," she smiled.
Ms Trow wanted to thank New World Te Rapa staff who arrived with coffee, biscuits and bottled water for Spotlight staff.
"It's amazing to think they would do that, we are so appreciative."
Seven fire appliances including four pumps and three specialist vehicles were sent to the Te Rapa shopping centre, according to Mr Breeze, who said typhoon fans had been set up to help clear the smoke filled store.
"There is still a lot of smoke in there now, it will take some time to clear that and remove the excess water from the floor areas."
- © Fairfax NZ News