An unstable and fire damaged will remain in place when fire investigators begin their painstaking process in trying to work out how a Hamilton business was reduced to ashes.

The delay in determining the cause of Monday morning's blaze at AH Franks Tyres is due to the large amounts of asbestos which was in the exterior roof cladding.

The fire is being treated as suspicious until investigators can prove otherwise, especially as yesterday's blaze was the second in 24 hours and the third in four years.

Seven employees now face an uncertain future as owner Jim Nolen is left with a pile of ashes and charred vehicles that he was working on.

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AH Franks Tyres owner Jim Nolen. Photo / Belinda Feek
AH Franks Tyres owner Jim Nolen. Photo / Belinda Feek

Waikato senior fire risk manager Kevin Holmes said the roof's remains all contained asbestos which were this afternoon all being swept up by workers at the scene.

The charred remains were left all over the the scene including an adjacent driveway.

Holmes also said they will leave the delapidated southern wall in place as despite it being 'bowed' the steel beems holding it in place appeared strong enough to hold up as they made their way through the scene.

His investigation crew will begin investigating the cause tomorrow morning.

The concrete wall will eventually pulled down, while the fire wall - which separates AH Franks from Collins Auto Electrical next door - will also need to be checked out and replaced if necessary.

The blaze was so big at its peak that massive clouds of smoke could not only be seen from as far away as Raglan but also from the air, as plane passengers took photos of the scene from the sky.

the priority this morning was assessing the asbestos risk.

He said wet asbestos was okay but when it dried it became a toxic risk as it floated through the air.

Asbestos can cause severe health risks if inhaled and it needs to be removed carefully. Workers charged with the job today will need to be fully covered with breathing masks, boots and boiler suits.

The scene has been cordoned off and was under police guard this morning.

AH Franks Tyres remains under police guard this morning as fire investigators prepare to return to the scene today. Photo / Belinda Feek
AH Franks Tyres remains under police guard this morning as fire investigators prepare to return to the scene today. Photo / Belinda Feek

Throughout yesterday's firefighting operation, firefighters were being hosed down and their uniforms thrown in bags for washing because of possible contamination.

Firefighters battle a massive blaze at AH Franks Tyres on Anglesea St, Hamilton. Photo / Belinda Feek
Firefighters battle a massive blaze at AH Franks Tyres on Anglesea St, Hamilton. Photo / Belinda Feek

Once the level of asbestos is confirmed a decision will be made as to at what stage the unstable southern wall, which is on the verge of collapse, will be pulled down.

Fire investigators have been unable to get into the scene because of the two major risks.


Arson is suspected in the fire, as a pile of tyres at the side of the building were set alight on Sunday night.

It is the third fire at the shop in four years.

The unstable southern wall of AH Franks Tyres - pictured - will have to come down before fire investigators can access the building. Photo / Belinda Feek
The unstable southern wall of AH Franks Tyres - pictured - will have to come down before fire investigators can access the building. Photo / Belinda Feek

Nolen said the family business had been running for 96 years. He has owned the shop for 31 years. He arrived at the scene about 10.30am and said he was "devastated" by the blaze.

"I'm shattered, almost numb," Nolen said.

"My problems are the building has gone. That's it. End of story."

He said he was not aware of too many enemies, despite Sunday's arson.

"[Sunday's] one was deliberately lit. We don't know about [yesterday's] and according to the fire officer I was speaking to it could be difficult to determine because it's such an intense blaze. We may know, we may not, but we won't know for a long time."

He said he thought when his daughter phoned to say his business was on fire that she was confused with Sunday's arson.

"I was like 'no, no that was yesterday'."

But then he checked.

Standing helplessly at the scene as firefighters battled the blaze, he said he was a "stunned mullet" as he came to terms with what happened.

Waikato fire acting area commander Mark Tinworth said about 16 appliances attended the fire.

"If the guys had gone inside it would have been [very dangerous] absolutely. The tyres themselves burn very hot. A lot of unburned fuel makes it very dangerous for firefighters and very, very hot. Hence the external fire attack."

Collins Auto Electrical is attached to the tyre shop.

Owner Jason Land was at the shop when he heard noises, including explosions, then ran outside to see what was happening.

Collins Auto Electrical owner Jason Land. Photo / Belinda Feek
Collins Auto Electrical owner Jason Land. Photo / Belinda Feek

He managed to remove about six customers' cars they had been working on to a neighbouring car park.

However, thanks to a firewall separating the two businesses his shop escaped relatively unscathed. Just a small amount of water seeped through.

"I think we were a bit lucky."

His business was closed today as it was part of the area cordoned off by fire investigators.