11 Nov 2009

Antarctica NZ 'takes responsibility' for hut fire

10:42 pm on 11 November 2009

The head of Antarctica New Zealand says staff complacency caused a fire that destroyed a hut near Scott Base in May.

An investigation into the fire has identified that fire extinguishers have failed in sub zero temperatures and a poor safety plan was in place.

The A-frame building was set alight when priming fuel ignited as staff changed diesel fuel heating tanks, in a routine operation.

One worker received minor burns.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson says he takes responsibility for the blaze, as the Scott Base staff had not been properly trained.

Mr Sanson says all Scott Base staff had training with the Fire Service this year, and are now trying to learn from the hut fire.

In its annual report, Antarctica New Zealand says it has addressed the technical issue of the extinguishers not working and has improved safety awareness.

The hut was originally built in the 1970s as an office space for the United States Antarctic Programme at McMurdo Station.