December 12, 2008
The issue of fire safety in larger buildings has again come to the fore with an inferno in a Mitre 10 store at Onehunga.
This comes after eight months after a Hamilton firefighter was killed after propane gas ignited while he fought a fire in a Tamahere coolstore.
In Onehunga, questions were raised about some of the store's fire safety practices, as well as the presence of asbestos in the building.
In Tararua, it is not known for sure how many of the district's buildings contain asbestos.
'It's the kind of thing which surfaces when people want to do alterations. About once a year we might hear of something,' Tararua District Council environment services manager Mike Brown said.
Earlier building records didn't keep that kind of detail, he said.
Tararua chief building officer Trevor Hook believed there would still be quite a few buildings in the district containing asbestos.
'It was commonly used in buildings and most of the older buildings would have it,' he said.
'Asbestos came in after the war. Back then it was seen as the best thing since sliced bread, as timber was short. They stopped using it around 1965, when they realised there were problems with it.' Most houses built in the 1950s or 1960s would contain some asbestos, but so long as they were painted and well maintained, there should not be any problem with it, Mr Hook said.
Most of the town's larger buildings were built either before the introduction of asbestos, or after it had gone out of vogue.
When the New Zealand Fire Service released a report on the Tamahaere coolstore fire, they stressed the importance of building owners keeping the local fire brigade informed about possible fire hazards inside the building. At the time, Dannevirke chief fire officer Mike Finucane believed he had a good handle on what fire hazards there are in the town's buildings.
Three of Dannevirke's larger retailers say they follow fire safety practices.
Mitre 10 manager Pat Walsh said they have fire wardens in every department, and hold fire drills three times a year.
'We work in with the local fire brigade and let them know when we are going to be doing them,' he said.
'We have glass alarms and extinguishers around the place. We're lucky in that we have about six exits in the building.'
The store does not have sprinklers, or smoke alarms, he said.
Dannevirke New World owner Garry Hasler said they have six-monthly evacuations as required by the building codes, as well as fire alarms and extinguishers inside the store.
The store also has smoke alarms..
'We have fire wardens in every department trained in evacuation procedures,' he said.
The Warehouse's chief operating officer, Richard Lewis, said 83 of their 85 stores, including the Dannevirke store, are equipped with sprinklers. Each store has a trial evacuation every six months, and new employees are taken through emergency procedures as part of their training.