An investigation has been launched into the cause of a late-night blaze that burnt-down a derelict part of a Porirua shopping centre.
A fire investigator and a police photographer were going through the charred remains of the derelict commercial property tucked among shops along Mentor Lane at Cannons Creek on Monday.
It took about 40 firefighters from 11 fire appliances to quell the blaze, which grew higher than a lamppost at one point, at about 11pm the previous night.
Paul Wahid, who runs a nearby SuperValu store, said he understood the building used to be a bar but it had been closed for years.
Kids used to climb onto the buildings and get inside, he said. “There’s a lot of kids, young kids, out on the roof all the time.”
The fire had caused a power outage, which was still affecting the shops into the next day.
“It’s costing all of us big time. All the freezers [are off].”
His colleague, Jackson Singh, said he was working in the store that night when the blaze started at the front of the building nearby and smoke filled the sky “big time”.
The flames were “higher than the [street] lights”.
“One of the other boys, he ran in back in there, and he couldn’t speak; he was just making these funny faces, and I said, ‘calm down, calm down’.”
Fire and Emergency New Zealand assistant area commander for Wellington David Campbell said his officers’ top priority was to stop the blaze spreading to other shops.
“It was burning very well by the time crews got there and had spread to an adjoining building.”
Firefighters were faced with an indoor battle, full of machinery and debris.
“The structure was collapsing so I couldn’t send anyone inside … it was all [done] from the outside; surround and drown.”
He understood the owner of the derelict building previously tried to start it up as a bar..
A fire investigator was up there on Monday, “having a rummage through the remains to locate a cause”.
“It’s probably been started by someone. It’s probably a crime scene.”