Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Teens admit school fire (+video)

Police have referred two teenagers to Youth Aid after a school administration block was gutted by a blaze just before 4am yesterday.

Avondale detectives found and interviewed two 14-year-old youths in relation to the arson at Pt Chevalier School.

Police said both boys had admitted starting the fire and the matter would be referred to the Youth Aid section.

A sprinkler system was due to be activated at 9am yesterday - which would have prevented much of the damage, said Auckland fire service assistant area commander Roger Callister. That was one of many "disturbing" aspects about the blaze, he said, added to the fact several other minor fires had been lit at the school last week.

Board of trustees chairman Richard Green said the fire had started around recycle bins underneath the administration block. "It's done significant damage. This is the block that contains all our records and it's where the school is run from."

Meanwhile, a Whanganui man has been arrested after fire officers attended a fire and discovered a cannabis growing operation.

Police went to the house in Niblett St, Whanganui, because they believed a person was trapped in a bedroom, but when emergency services arrived all three occupants had escaped the fire, described as minor.

Sergeant Drew Allison confirmed a person had been arrested.

"As a result of the Fire Service making safe that place and clearing it, one adult male will be appearing before the district court on drug-related charges," he said. "This is due to a small growing operation located in the house."

All three occupants were treated for smoke inhalation - one at Whanganui Hospital.

Senior fire station officer Craig Gardiner said an occupant of the house called the Fire Service after a bedroom curtain caught alight.

"There were no smoke alarms at the house and that was a huge factor," Gardiner said. "One of the reasons one of the people was overwhelmed by smoke was because they were in the room trying to fight the fire themselves."

Whanganui firefighters attended 110 house fires in the last 12 months in the Ruapehu, Rangitikei and Whanganui area.


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