No sprinklers at gutted storage building

Sprinklers were not installed at a large storage unit building which caught fire in Wellington early on Friday and is now a smouldering wreck after a marathon effort to put it out.

Eighteen Fire Service crews were called to the property at 12.45am on Friday after a building containing 750 storage units caught on fire. It was one of five buildings used by Kiwi Self Storage Units in the suburb of Kilbirnie.

A digger was used to give crews access to the storage units.

A digger was used to give crews access to the storage units.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Assistant district area commander Paul Smith.

Assistant district area commander Paul Smith.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Assistant district area commander Paul Smith said crews finally got the blaze under control by Friday evening. A digger was used to demolish the side of the building so firefighters could begin tackling the units one by one.

"We're actually starting to make some really good progress. The digger that we used to open up the end of the building has done a good job and allowed a lot of the heat to dissipate. This has allowed us to get the crews back into interior firefighting again and we're working our way though all the units, opening them up and extinguishing the fires as we get to them."

He said earlier plans to pull back the roof were dropped as the heat from the fire was intense, reaching temperatures of 800 to 1000 degrees Celsius.

Mr Smith said 30 firefighters are working their way through the top floor of the building and once that is done, crews will damp down hot spots overnight.

The blaze is believed to have destroyed Academy Awards, family heirlooms and documents.

Cinematographer Alex Funke, who worked on The Lord of the Rings films, said his Oscar and Bafta awards and much of his personal camera equipment were in a unit on the top floor, which appeared to be the most heavily damaged.

Wellington Regional Council chairperson and former MP Fran Wilde is understood to have stored some of her political papers in a unit there.

Sprinklers were not installed at the property, located next to the Kilbirnie fire station. Kiwi Self Storage Units director Andrew Fraser said it was not the industry standard to have sprinklers at storage units, but the company would look at installing them at its other storage facilities.

The company has fully insured the building, but people need to have individual insurance to be covered.

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Fire crews were called to the blaze at 12.45am on Friday.

Fire crews were called to the blaze at 12.45am on Friday.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

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