Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Cause of Hamilton tyre shop blaze 'undetermined'

Fire investigators say there are a "number" of possible causes of the massive blaze at AH Franks Tyres last week, but the case will remain 'undetermined'. Photo / Belinda Feek
Fire investigators say there are a "number" of possible causes of the massive blaze at AH Franks Tyres last week, but the case will remain 'undetermined'. Photo / Belinda Feek

Investigators of the huge blaze which destroyed a near century-old family business say they are unable to pinpoint the cause of the fire.

AH Franks Tyres was reduced to charred rubble after a suspicious fire ripped through it about 9.30am on Labour Day.

It was the second fire at the popular business in just over 12 hours, with owner Jim Nolen not initially believing family when they phoned to say that it was on fire again.

A bunch of tyres sitting against the southern wall of the building were set fire about 5.30pm the night before. After the fire was extinguished, the burned tyres were put back inside.

The fire was so big it could be seen right across the city and as far west as Raglan.

AH Franks Tyres owner Jim Nolen is positive about finding alternative premises and re-opening.
AH Franks Tyres owner Jim Nolen is positive about finding alternative premises and re-opening.

Fire investigators remained at the scene until Friday and could tell that the fire began in a similar area to the earlier arson.

Waikato fire area commander Roy Breeze said they had uncovered "a number" of possible causes and as such it would be deemed "undetermined".

The matter was now in the hands of the police who would take over the investigation.

When contacted, Nolen said he was unaware of any updates but said he was keen to get the business back up and running again.

He said he had two Hamilton commercial real estate agents keeping an eye out for any suitable premises that they could move into.

Fire investigators say there are a "number" of possible causes of the massive blaze at AH Franks Tyres last week, but the case will remain 'undetermined'. Photo / Belinda Feek
Fire investigators say there are a "number" of possible causes of the massive blaze at AH Franks Tyres last week, but the case will remain 'undetermined'. Photo / Belinda Feek

"Yes we're looking, we've looked but haven't come up with any concrete answers as yet."

He said the process so far had been slow and he was now busier than he'd ever been before dealing with insurance investigators and assessors, but it was the process needed to get going again.

Nolen said the clean up of the Anglesea St premises was likely to begin next week.

"Possibly as early as next week but the experts are involved, the engineers and demolition guys, and they'll make that decision ... I don't know how it works but WorkSafe requires them to do certain things before they start. I'm sure in the old days they would have had a wrecking ball in there by now."

As for whether the reality of what happened had sunk in yet, Nolen said he wasn't sure.

"Oh, that's a difficult question to answer, sometimes yes and sometimes it's a matter of staying positive and being in the moment. You don't want to get too far into the future, you should really be concentrating on today with a peripheral view to tomorrow and that's all you can really cope with.

"Trying to do much else than that and you'll probably find yourself beating yourself over the head."

Nolen said he also had his staff by his side who were keen to get back to work when a suitable, temporary premise was found.

"Yes, they're all on board and everyone is continuing to be on board so they're keen to be involved and I keep them in touch on a daily basis as to what's happening."

He suggested people wanting to keep up-to-date with the business's progress to keep an eye on the company's Facebook page.

The next issue for investigators is to determine the structural integrity of the fire wall separating AH Franks and Collins Auto Electrical next door.

- NZ Herald

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