Fire guts house in large blaze that ‘developed quickly’ in Mana

The occupants of a burning house in Mana fled the building before fire crews could arrive at the scene in the early hours of Monday morning.

There were no reports of injuries in the blaze which gutted a 20m x 15m single story flat near Mana Esplanade and Pascoe Ave.

Plimmerton fire chief Carl Mills said Fire and Emergency responded to multiple 111 calls shortly after 4.30am.

By the time crews arrived at the scene the house was well alight, but all occupants had got out of the building safely.

Mills said 25 firefighters fought the blaze and were able to prevent it from spreading to neighbouring houses.

The fire was brought under control about 40 minutes after crews arrived on the scene, Mills said.

“It was quite a large fire that developed pretty quickly,” Mills said.

25 firefighters fought the blaze and were able to prevent it from spreading to neighbouring houses. – 111Emergency

Fire investigators would examine the site to determine the cause of the fire, Mills said.

Police were helping the occupants of the building.

Fire investigators would examine the site to determine the cause of the fire which gutted the dwelling on Monday morning. – ROSS GIBLIN

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Police say Porirua house fire is being treated as suspicous

Story by Rachel Thomas and Justin Wong – Stuff

A fire at a block of units in Porirua that left up to two people seriously injured is being treated as a suspected arson, emergency services say.

The fire, which began in centre of three social housing units after midday on Monday in the suburb of Tītahi Bay left a giant hole in a roof, blackened stairs and sparks still inside flying at 5pm.

RACHEL THOMAS/STUFF The fire has left the set of three units in Titahi Bay at high risk of collapse, Porirua senior station officer Andrew Walker, front, says.

“It’s a suspicious fire at this stage, so we’ll hold a scene examination tomorrow talking all the witnesses and see what comes out in the wash,” Detective Sergeant Dave Jones of the Wellington Crime Squad said.

No charges had yet been laid and no one was in custody, he said.

“If it is arson, and it looks strongly like it is, we’ll investigate with a view to laying charges, but it is early days.”

SUPPLIED Ten fire trucks attended a fire at a block of houses in Tītahi Bay on Monday.

The fire has left the units at “high risk of collapse” Porirua senior station officer Andrew Walker said.

Fire services would maintain a presence at the units overnight, Walker said.

Firefighters were called to the scene shortly after lunchtime.

“Both sides of the unit were fully involved, which means flames coming out the windows and doors,” Walker said.

RACHEL THOMAS/STUFF Firefighters dampen down hotspots on Monday evening in the aftermath of the fire.

The fire appeared to begin in the middle unit in a block of three 2-storey flats, he said, “but where in that middle unit, I can’t say… because it’s not safe to go in yet”.

Two patients are in Hutt Valley emergency department in a serious condition.

No one was reported missing.

”Due to the risk of building collapse, we have not done a full search, nor will that be done at this stage,” Walker said.

RACHEL THOMAS/STUFF Porirua senior station officer Andrew Walker at the scene of the Tītahi Bay fire.

Some fire personnel were seen on the outdoor balcony of the centre unit on Monday evening.

It was “highly likely” there was asbestos in the roof of the building due to its age, he said.

While that was unconfirmed, crews had gone through decontamination and the scene was being treated with foam.

There was no risk to the nearby public from the asbestos, Walker said.

The units had been evacuated due to the fire and smoke, but no other evacuations had taken place, he said.

RACHEL THOMAS/STUFF The aftermath of a serious house fire in Tītahi Bay, Porirua. Blackened stairs could be seen in the unit on the right.

Emergency workers on the scene were wearing hazmat suits and could be seen wrapping possessions in plastic on the front lawn.

The scene would be handed over to fire investigators once the fire was fully extinguished, and likely begin investigating on Tuesday, Walker said.

The units are understood to belong to Te Āhuru Mōwai, a social housing arm of Porirua-based iwi Ngāti Toa.

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Ten fire trucks attending house fire in Porirua’s Tītahi Bay

Ten fire trucks attended a fire at a block of houses in Tītahi Bay on Monday. – Supplied

Police say at least one person has been injured in a fire at a block of flats at Tītahi Bay in Porirua.

Emergency services including police, fire and Wellington Free Ambulance were called to an address on Dimock St at 2.20pm.

Fire and Emergency said 10 fire trucks had been deployed to the fire, and recent strikes by the firefighters union would not impact on how they respond to emergencies.

  • Justin Wong
Posted in NEWS |

Two patients treated after house fire in Porirua

A photo posted on Facebook shows smoke pouring from the building. Photo / Supplied

Emergency services are at the scene of a house fire in Porirua.

Two patients are reportedly being treated by ambulance staff.

A police spokeswoman said they were notified of the dwelling fire on Dimock St in Titahi Bay about 2.20pm.

Fire and Emergency have not commented on the incident.

Photos of the smoke from the blaze have been posted on social media, with locals questioning what was happening in the area.

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‘It all adds up over time’: Firefighters on dealing with death

Bronte Metekingi – STUFF

Seasoned firefighter John Rowe attended a recent callout where he had to perform CPR on a 3-month-old baby. The child didn’t make it.

Rowe later found out the death was being treated as a suspected murder. He thought of his own grandchild.

He called the 0800 mental health support number provided to firefighters – they were “too busy”.

For Rowe, this was the final straw. After 32 years, he no longer works as a frontline firefighter.

On Monday, members of the Professional Firefighters Union went on a partial strike, refusing to complete any mandatory administrative tasks, like gathering statistics, non-essential paperwork, training and attending conferences.

The union and Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) have hit an impasse after more than a year of bargaining, with the union not ruling out escalating strike action if a deal cannot be reached.

There are issues with pay, staffing levels and equipment, but top of firefighters’ list of grievances is a lack of mental health support and awareness.

Porirua firefighter Jay Elkington said fire crews were almost always the first on the scene when called to a “purple incident” – that’s when a person is near-death or dying.

JERICHO ROCK-ARCHER John Rowe no longer works as a frontline firefighter after reaching the “final straw” on the job.

Since 2013, firefighters have been required to respond to these incidents alongside ambulance staff, but they felt ill-equipped to deal with what they faced.

“We’ve got a bag of bandages, Gladwrap, plasters and bottles of salty water on hand to respond to serious car accidents, suicides and stabbing victims.”

In the past week, Elkington has attended three incidents where someone required CPR. In two of these cases, the person did not survive.

“Being in the job so long, you become desensitised to a certain degree,” he said. But it was the families that stuck with him.

“You’ve got a crying wife …. pleading with us to bring them back. Or the children. We don’t get trained, or any help, to deal with that stuff.”

When Elkington drives past houses in his neighbourhood, he remembers what happened there – the incident, the wife, the children. But he doesn’t know what happened after they closed the ambulance door.

“It would be nice to know if they make it or not. It would give us some closure.”

Elkington said he wanted officers to be trained to recognise what trauma looked like and for processes that removed the pressure on firefighters to self-report.

JERICHO ROCK-ARCHER Porirua firefighters display information about their working conditions and lack of mental health support.

“I don’t know what mental health trauma looks like, or if I am suffering from it.”

Colleague Bret Burrows said, from the coal face, the current support systems and processes felt like “a tick box exercise”.

“This system relies on self-referral and if someone is struggling, they aren’t always in the right frame of mind to self-refer,” he said.

“A system where professionals routinely monitor firefighters’ wellbeing is needed.”

Officially, crews are supposed to do a debrief after every callout, but whether that happened depended on the severity of the incident.

The effect was cumulative, he said. “While you’re still processing one, you get pinged, and you have to go to another one. It all adds up over time.”

The firefighters didn’t feel supported by management.

JERICHO ROCK-ARCHER Alan Collett, union local secretary in Wellington, says in some instances firefighters have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI).

Fenz deputy national commander Brendan Nally said firefighters were provided a range of free counselling and professional psychological support services. Counselling was also available to firefighters’ immediate family.

The national body had offered to work with the union to improve and develop mental health support and education, he said.

But it isn’t just the nature of the incidents, it’s also the number of hours firefighters are having to work.

All the firefighters who spoke to Stuff said they’d had to work between 86 and 100 hours a week on countless occasions, in an effort to keep fire trucks on the run and prevent Wellington fire stations closing for the day.

Some firefighters in the region were racking up more than 300 hours a month due to staff shortages. These shortages also made responding to incidents more dangerous.

Nally said firefighters worked 42 hours a week on average, before overtime, based on two-day shifts, followed by two night shifts, and four days off.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER/STUFF Officially, crews are supposed to do a debrief after every callout, but whether that happened depends on the severity of the incident.

“I am aware some personnel occasionally work long hours, and like many organisations, we have recently been impacted by absences due to Covid-19.”

Nally said he appreciated the “extra mahi” and the need to balance that against fatigue and other pressures, while pointing to the organisation’s fatigue management policy.

In a previous statement, Fenz chief executive Kerry Gregory said personnel occasionally worked long hours, but he was not aware of anyone routinely doing 80, 90 or 100 hours a week.

Burrows said it was hard to hear FENZ downplaying their struggles.

The recurring response was “we’re looking into it”. But that wasn’t good enough, he said.

“It’s like, we’re just going to throw some more money at it and a bunch of people are going to sit around and talk about it, but it won’t actually affect what’s happening.”

Burrows said the extra hours and stress had a knock-on effect. “If you’re selling your free time, something’s got to give – whether it’s family life, your loved ones, your own mental health and wellbeing.”

Wattie Watson, secretary of the New Zealand Professional Firefighters’ Union, said all these issues had compounded to cause a fire crisis.

The parties were deadlocked at the end of one day of mediation on Thursday and Fenz had declined to meet for any further meetings until the union put forward a lower remuneration claim, she said.

“The relationship is at its lowest ever.”

Where to get help:

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Six fire trucks at large house fire in Porirua, north of Wellington

Firefighters have contained a large house fire at a Paremata property near Porirua, north of Wellington.

Fire and Emergency shift manager Karen McDonald confirmed crews were called to the “well involved” house fire on Mana Esplanade about 3.45pm on Thursday.

She said crews had managed to contain the blaze by 5pm, although it had yet to be fully extinguished. Six fire trucks from Johnsonville and Porirua remain on site.

The occupants had all been accounted for and there were no reported injuries, she said.

A house is on fire on Mana Esplanade in Porirua.
SUPPLIED
A house is on fire on Mana Esplanade in Porirua.

A fire investigator is on scene to determine the cause of fire.

Police have closed the road between Mana View Rd and Pascoe Ave as a precaution while emergency services respond.

A diversion is in place. Motorists are asked to take an alternative route or delay travel if possible, or expect delays.

Posted in NEWS |

‘I looked down the hall and saw flames’: Husband and wife escape house in early morning Porirua blaze

No injured were reported following an early morning blaze in Whitby which started in caravan and spread to a house. (File photo).

SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF No injured were reported following an early morning blaze in Whitby which started in caravan and spread to a house. (File photo).

A sharp smell of burnt plastic was still in the air following an early morning fire which a Porirua woman saw engulf her garage and van.

The homeowner, who asked to not be named, said she woke up to her husband saying there was a ‘light on the wall’ at about 3.30am on Friday.

“I looked down the hall and saw flames,” she said. “I saw the house was on fire.”

The pair grabbed their dogs, some clothes and managed to get safely out of the house which was built 10 years ago on Canary Way, in Whitby.

The woman climbed over her neighbour’s fence and went to the road where she could see her property. Her neighbours had also been woken up by the blaze and had called emergency services.

“I saw the van was alight and the garage was involved.”

She was grateful for the support of neighbours and the fire brigade. She had been told it was not being treated as suspicious.

A stranger who lives nearby had also offered their home to the pair for a week while she was on holiday.

A Fire and Emergency spokeswoman said the fire started in the van and moved to the house. Four fire vehicles from Porirua, Titahi Bay and Johnsonville attended the blaze.

Fire and Emergency investigators are investigating the cause of the blaze.

No-one was injured in the fire.

The woman’s business, Hel on Wheels Mobile Dog Grooming Ltd​, posted on social media and said all appointments would be postponed until further notice because of the fire.

“I regret to inform you all that my van and home caught fire in the early hours of this morning, and I’m postponing all appointments until further notice,” said the post.

Posted in NEWS |

Caravan fire spreads to house in early morning Porirua blaze

The cause of an early morning fire that started in a caravan and spread to a house is yet to be determined.

A Fire and Emergency spokeswoman said services were called to an address in Whitby, Porirua, about 3.30am on Friday.

The fire had started in a caravan on the Canary Way property before spreading to a nearby house, the spokeswoman said.

Four fire vehicles from Porirua, Titahi Bay and Johnsonville attended the blaze.

Fire and Emergency investigators are investigating the cause of the blaze.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

A business, Hel on Wheels Mobile Dog Grooming Ltd, posted on social media and said all appointments would be postponed until further notice because of the fire.

“I regret to inform you all that my van and home caught fire in the early hours of this morning, and I’m postponing all appointments until further notice,” said the post.

A spokeswoman for the business declined to comment when approached by Stuff.

A police spokeswoman said police had not been alerted to the incident.

STORY CREDIT: Bill Hickman and Sophie Cornish

Posted in NEWS |

Two people treated for injuries after house near Wellington destroyed by ‘tornado of flames’

As the family struggled to escape their burning home next door, Vincent Ahiao was woken by the sound of shouting.

It was a man, Ahiao said, screaming for his son to “jump out the window”.

Later when Ahiao saw the house engulfed in fire, it was like “a tornado of flames”.

The neighbours of a Porirua house gutted by fire have spoken about being woken by the suburban inferno on Maher Pl.

Two people have been treated for injuries after the house fire.

ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF Two people have been treated for injuries after the house fire.

Ahiao said he was woken at about 4am on Thursday by the sounds of the family of four next door struggling to get out of their home.

It appeared the son in the family was struggling to escape and the father was shouting “get out, get out”.

The son jumped out a window to escape, he said. All four family members made it out of the house.

Vincent Ahiao was woken by the sound of shouting from a house fire next door.

ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF Vincent Ahiao was woken by the sound of shouting from a house fire next door.

Ahiao said they called emergency services, but he was forced to watch as intense waves of heat and thick smoke swept up from the neighbouring house.

As items exploded inside the house, they popped “like throwing Lynx cans in the fire”, he said.

Ahiao said at the beginning he heard smoke alarms from inside the house too.

The home engulfed in flames in Porirua early on Thursday morning.

VINCENT AHIAO/SUPPLIED The home engulfed in flames in Porirua early on Thursday morning.

On another side of the house, neighbour Paea Saluni was also woken by screams, and still groggy from sleep, struggled to work out what was happening.

He thought it might be a late night party at first.

“I heard screaming, and they were calling out but I wasn’t sure what was happening.”

Two people escaped a house fire in Porirua on early Thursday morning. The house was severely damaged.

ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF Two people escaped a house fire in Porirua on early Thursday morning. The house was severely damaged.

He got up and tried to find where the noise was coming from, and then he saw the fire.

“They were all out from the house, so that’s good, I was worried there could be someone inside.”

They called fire fighters too and soon at least three fire trucks were crammed into the cul-de-sac battling the fire.

A house on Maher Pl, Rānui has been severely damaged and two people hospitalised after a house fire on Thursday morning.

GOOGLE MAPS/SUPPLIED A house on Maher Pl, Rānui has been severely damaged and two people hospitalised after a house fire on Thursday morning.

In daylight on Thursday morning the house was completely gutted, the fire destroying most of the roof as well. A set of scorched gas tanks sat beside the house.

Emergency services were called to the house on Maher Place in Rānui, Porirua, about 4am on Thursday.

Wellington Free Ambulance were called to the scene at about 5.45am and treated two patients at the scene.

A neighbour described the destructive blaze as "so sad, so silent, and so quick".

J SCOTT/SUPPLIED A neighbour described the destructive blaze as “so sad, so silent, and so quick”.

An ambulance spokesperson said they were treated for minor injuries and referred to their general practitioner.

FENZ said the fire was contained just before 7am and firefighters were dampening down the site.

The fire is not being treated as suspicious.

Stuff – Joel Maxwell and Jessica Long

Posted in NEWS |

Fire closes State Highway 1 Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki

A fire on the Pukerua Bay side of the Paekakariki Hill has closed State Highway 1 in both directions. A witness said five fire and emergency engines were in attendance.

A fire on the Pukerua Bay side of the Paekakariki Hill has closed State Highway 1 in both directions. A witness said five fire and emergency engines were in attendance. HANNAH CALVER

The scrub fire on the hill above State Highway 1 north of Wellington has been put out.

The fire on Monday night had closed the road between Pukerua Bay and Paekākāriki.

The closure remained in place, but it was understood the road would reopen around 10:30pm.

Fire and emergency shift manager Murray Dunbar said crews were still “dampening down” the fire, but it was extinguished.

Dampening down was a process to ensure the fire could not reignite.

A spokesperson said Fire and Emergency were called at 8:02pm.

Twelve fire trucks attended the scene, and were joined by police at 8:06pm.

Traffic was diverted and the road was closed by NZTA.

Road users were told to take alternative routes such as Paekākāriki Hill Road, although this was not suitable for heavy vehicles.

Metlink Wellington said all trains on the Kāpiti line were suspended between Porirua and Waikanae.

The 7:44pm train service from Wellington to Waikanae was terminated at Plimmerton and passengers were advised to find alternative transport.

It was not yet clear when the train line would reopen, and it was understood two freight trains were currently waiting for clearance.

A scrub fire has closed State Highway 1 north of Pukerua Bay, and trains have been cancelled.

A scrub fire has closed State Highway 1 north of Pukerua Bay, and trains have been cancelled. NZTA

 

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