Fire rips through popular Wellington cafe

Fire crews respond to a kitchen fire at Beach Babylon Cafe. Photo: SNPA / Derek Quinn
Fire crews respond to a kitchen fire at Beach Babylon Cafe. Photo: SNPA / Derek Quinn

Fire has broken out at a popular beachside cafe in Wellington.

Smoke was seen billowing from Oriental Bay's Beach Babylon about 9am.

There were no reports of injuries.

Assistant area commander Paul Smith said the fire had started behind a wall in the cafe.

"It was quite hard to get to, so it took a while for us to bring the fire under control, and as we were doing that it sort of developed slightly.

He said a lot of old buildings had false walls and fire can get behind them.

"Especially old constructions like this, through renovations and things like that. Rather than rip it down, they build in front of it.

What I understand is we had a situation like that and firefighters couldn't quite get to the fire, he said.

Everyone at the cafe and the upper floors of the building was evacuated by the time fire service got to the scene.

The fire was now contained and firefighters were dampening down hotspots.

Six pumping appliances and three specialist appliances attended the scene.

Café manager and co-owner and manager Simon Holtham said the fire was believed to have started in an electrical socket behind a kitchen wall.

Smoke can be seen from a large distance. Photo / Nicholas Jones
Smoke can be seen from a large distance. Photo / Nicholas Jones

"From what I understand in the kitchen behind a wall, possibly from a faulty plug. From what the chefs say that's what they think happened.

"They heard a bang and tried to put it out but when they couldn't called the fire brigade."

He said the blaze appeared to have been brought under control quickly.

"There's a lot less smoke than there was 10-minutes ago which hopefully means they have got it under control. It looks a lot calmer now no one is running around."

It was the first fire at the well-known café, he said.

"You can see inside form here and there doesn't seem to be any damage in there I think because it's inside the walls it might have gone up a little bit.

"Everyone got out fine and that's the main thing, we have insurance...hopefully we can re-open as soon as we can."

Firefighters began to remove the ceiling of the two storey building - that hosts the White House restaurant on the top floor - to tackle the blaze.

Reporter at the scene, Nicholas Jones, described smoke billowing from the rear of the building.

A large crowd of onlookers had gathered at the beach.

A woman at the nearby Caci beauty clinic said the scene seemed very calm.

"I can see fire trucks, but everybody is pretty calm," she said.

- NZ Herald

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