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Friday 16 September 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in National


Family house gutted in blaze
Firefighters fight the blaze that completely destroyed an Avarua family house and vehicles on the site last month. Picture: RASHNEEL KUMAR/22091504

A family home was gutted and cars were destroyed in a fire just behind the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management in Avarua yesterday.

Rescue Fire Service were alerted of the blaze by the Police Service at 10.55am Thursday. Fire trucks remained onsite until around 3pm.

A truck from the Rescue Fire Service arrived on the scene shortly after the call, by then the fire had fully engulfed the building and vehicles on the site. The second fire truck arrived about 15-20 minutes later.

Chief fire officer Breamnt John Kea said around five vehicles and a small digger sitting on a trailer were caught up in the blaze which made the fire serious.

“It poses a lot of risk to the firefighters, anything could explode in vehicle fires and there was a lot of vehicles and machinery around,” Kea said.

“It’s sad we could only do so much and control the fire, nothing could be saved.”

Kea said he was not sure if any vehicles exploded at the scene. Once the crew arrived at around 11am, the building – which was about two stories high – collapsed.

There were around 20 firefighters on the ground, about a dozen were from volunteer fire brigades Puaikura and Titikaveka, and eight were from Rescue Fire Service – five were off duty before getting called to assist.   

“They handled it well,” Kea said.

“Around 12.30pm they called back to say the fire is under control.”

Kea said the wind was strong and spread the fire quickly. He said the building materials could have also been old which could have helped spread the fire faster.

At present it’s too early to determine the cause of the fire, Kea said. However, it should be known in about a week after it had been investigated.

He said the firefighters responded to the blaze just after completing their morning physical training with a 2.4 kilometre run. He said there was not much traffic getting to the scene.

“At the time we received the call we noticed the smoke straight away so it could have been burning for a while.”

Bystander, Danny Mataroa said he was driving around the roundabout by the Ministry of Justice (court house) when he saw “huge smoke” coming from the direction of the home.

“I got there and the whole thing was already gone,” Mataroa said, who arrived on the scene before the fire crews.

“It’s not a good sight to look at.”

Mataroa said according to one of the family members who own the home, there was a pre-cut house lying underneath the iron roofing which also got caught up in the flames.

He said power tools were destroyed in the fire as well.

Family members on the scene were comforted by police and people at the site.

Kea thanked the volunteers who took part in fighting the fire.

“It’s good to have that team backup in the spirit of wanting to work together.”