Sprinklers save Matakohe Kauri museum

By Kristin Edge

Sprinkler systems are being credited with saving the award winning Matakohe Kauri Museum from extensive damage after a generator accidently sparked off a fire yesterday.

Staff breathed a sigh of relief when sprinklers contained the fire to a storage shed and stopped it spreading to the main part of the museum where thousands of artifacts representing Northland's history are stored.

Crews from three volunteer fire brigades converged on the museum after the alarms sounded and staff were arriving for work about 8.30am.

The museum's chief executive officer Betty Nelley said it was with "horror" that she discovered there was a fire .

"I was just arriving and there was flames and smoke," she said.

"The sprinkler system has only just been signed off in the last year. Once they went off it really contained the fire."

The drama began when a generator being put through a weekly test sparked a fire which spread through a storage shed.

Staff and a visiting tourist were quickly on hand and used fire extinguishers and hoses to try and quell the fire. However, it spread and came perilously close to burning through a wall to a new section of a boarding house near a back gallery. The sprinklers were activated and they effectively stopped the fire from spreading.

Mrs Nelley said a fire pump owned by the community was delivered by Nick Tetzner and water from a tank was sprayed onto the fire before fire crews from Paparoa, Maungaturoto and Ruawai arrived.

Fire drills were regularly practised at the museum and paid off yesterday, with everyone following the correct procedures.

"Fortunately, nothing of real value was lost. Nothing from the collection has been damaged."

Northland fire safety officer Craig Bain said sprinklers probably saved thousands of precious museum pieces.

"Here is real proof that sprinklers do work."

The Matakohe Kauri Museum tells the story of pioneering days through the use of kauri timber and gum.

There are displays and galleries in the museum, from a collection of antique kauri furniture and the largest collection of kauri gum in the world, to restored machinery, including New Zealand's earliest tractor, a 1929 Cat 60, and a turning steam sawmill.

- Northern Advocate

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