Whangamata school workshop goes up in smoke

By Nikki Preston

A fire that ripped through a school workshop in the Coromandel is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault in the roof.

Whangamata Area School principal Ross Preece said the fire started about 10 yesterday morning, destroying the wood and metal workshops, automotive area and a small classroom.

Thousands of dollars of equipment, including a $1500 sander bought two days ago, automotive hoists and drill presses, accumulated by head of technology Bob Pipe over 20 years of appealing to local businesses also went up in smoke.

Mr Preece estimated the cost of replacing the "the best workshop" in the area to be about $1 million.

"It's a fantastic resource ... The sad thing is Wintec had been starting an outreach programme for high schools and they were interested in us hosting it at our school because of the facilities we have."

The school was now reliant on the Ministry of Education and its insurers to "do the right thing and put it back to the state it was".

Mr Preece hoped work would be completed by the start of term two next year as the facility was also used by students from Hikuai, Tairua and Opoutere Schools.The school had been holding an athletics day so most of its students - including those from the three visiting schools - were on the sports field when the fire started and had been easy to account for.

Mr Preece said there had been a few minutes when they couldn't find Mr Pipe and the children rushed over and hugged him when he appeared from another part of the school.

Two staff members spotted the fire and raised alarm as the fire quickly took hold and flames rose 3m above the roof.

Five trucks from Whangamata, Pauanui, Tairua and Waihi spent two hours battling the blaze.

Fire safety officers were still investigating the cause of the fire last night and the school's insurers were also assessing the damage.

Students were sent home early but the school planned to reopen this morning.

- Hamilton News

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