Waipukurau hospital owner Russell Deakin is fairly circumspect about the large fire that broke out in the former nurses' home on Monday, resulting in its demolition that evening.

"We were going to leave this building until last because it was really one of the only buildings of significance, but that decision has been taken away from us," he said yesterday, after having been to the site in the morning to inspect the damage.

While most of the demolition occurred on Monday, the rest was due to be completed today, he said.

"It will be a matter now of removing the rubble - there might be quite a few bricks that are recoverable," he said.


"At the end of the day it might have been impossible to do something with it with earthquake regulations these days, and the building had already been vandalised - it's a shame but maybe it would have had to go anyway."

He said the ongoing demolition that had been happening at the site since he and his brother Gary bought the property in November last year would continue, although from a different direction.

Waipukurau chief fire officer Steve Walker said his brigade left at about 7pm after battling the fire since 12.27pm when firefighters were called to the site to find it already well involved.

"Hastings were there until about 9.30pm, and we gave them a hand to pack up and left the site at about 10pm."

He said it was confirmed quite early on that asbestos was not a risk as far as the building was concerned.

"After the last fire there was an extensive investigation into asbestos across the whole complex and this part was deemed safe."

Erring on the side of caution, however, he said the fire service alerted CHB College because it was downwind of extensive smoke, and asked that students be kept inside until it was deemed safe to exit, which they did at about 3.30pm.

At its height there were 60 fire-fighting personnel and about a dozen appliances from around the region involved in fighting the blaze.

Waipukurau Sergeant in Charge Ross Gilbert said police were treating the fire as suspicious, but were yet to determine whether it was arson or just carelessness.

"The fact that there's no power on and the building was not occupied, there's no immediate cause as to how it started."

He said it was a bit different from the normal scene investigation as due to the severe damage caused to the building fire safety staff and police were unable to send people in to investigate.

"The investigation is continuing with what we can get access to."