10 Jun 2011

Suspicious fires destroy part of former college

10:04 pm on 10 June 2011

An abandoned college in Lower Hutt has been seriously damaged by two suspicious fires, in the third set of suspicious fires in the Wellington region in less than a week.

The Fire Service says when it arrived the top floor of a two-storey building at the disused Petone Memorial Technical College was engulfed in flames.

A second fire, in another classroom block, appears to have been lit while the first blaze was being fought.

Police were called in with dogs to investigate.

The Petone Tech fire comes a day after two suspicious fires at the Basin Reserve cricket ground in Wellington city, and a spate of fires around the region at Queen's Birthday Weekend. A man is facing 10 arson charges over the latter fires.

The Fire Service was called to the Petone blaze about 5.30pm on Friday.

Eleven fire engines and about 40 firefighters controlled the fires within about three hours.

Fire Service assistant area commander Bernie Rush says the first building was literally destroyed and will have to be demolished.

He says because the fire in the second building was discovered early, the damage was quite minor.

Mr Rush says no-one was hurt in the fires but the buildings were old and potentially dangerous.

He says two fire crews will remain at the scene overnight, along with security guards.

The college, on North St, closed 13 years ago. It was used for some years by Hutt Valley High School, and is landbanked for a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

KiwiRail says the nearby railway line was not affected.