Te Rapa car repair shop owner 'dazed' by fire damage

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014
Firefighters walk through a warehouse destroyed by a fire at Te Rapa
FAIRFAX NZ

DEVASTATION: Firefighters walk through a warehouse destroyed by a fire at Te Rapa on Saturday afternoon.

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A Hamilton car repair shop owner struggled to stand as he watched his business of 16 months go up in smoke.

ARNZ Automotive Repair in Sheffield St, Te Rapa, was closed as its owner Arn De la Cruz attended church with his family.

He was unaware of the inferno destroying his business, and two others which are housed in the massive warehouse, until receiving a call from a customer on Saturday afternoon.

Mr De la Cruz said about 14 cars parked inside and outside of his workshop were damaged in the blaze.

His tools, compressor and other equipment were also ruined, he said.

When he arrived at the scene, the state of his repair shop left him struggling to walk, he said.

"It seemed all my body was cramped and I didn't know what to do."

Mr De la Cruz said he had no idea how the fire started.

Dozens of firefighters descended on the blaze as smoke headed over to Te Rapa Straight, leaving police to help manage traffic.

The warehouse is now in tatters - part of the roof has collapsed, sheets of corrugated iron have been left crumpled and twisted on the ground, and the building almost reduced to a shell.

Cars inside the warehouse - many of them customers vehicles parked at ARNZ Automotive Repair - were burned out.

Fire safety officer Ross Fleet was sifting through the remains of the building when he spoke with the Waikato Times yesterday.

"There are sheets of iron and all kinds of things blowing around. It's not very safe."

He said the three businesses inside the factory - the automotive workshop, a signwriting business and a storage unit - all suffered severe damage.

"The fire has spread from one unit to the next," he said.

Two fire investigators were looking at the cause of the blaze yesterday, but Mr Fleet said they were not treating the fire as suspicious at this stage.

Mr Fleet said investigators were focussing on one premise in particular, however he declined to reveal from which business the fire originated.

More than 60 firefighters were called in to fight the blaze after the fire service received multiple calls about 5.30pm, Fire Service communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said. There were 15 fire engines at the scene and a cherry picker was used to allow firefighters to hose the flames from above.

Mr Phillips said firefighters started scaling down their work at about 9.30pm - almost four hours after they arrived.

There was no one in the warehouse at the time of the fire. harry.pearl@waikatotimes.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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