UPDATE: Investigators to probe cause of fire at Taupo timber packaging business

The managing director of a Taupo business engulfed by a "raging inferno" was relieved to discover this morning the damage was not as bad as he had feared.

The fire service was called to the blaze at New Zealand Timber Packaging on Manuka St in Taupo about 8.30pm.

Eight fire engines from Taupo, Kinloch, Rotorua and Tokoroa were called to the spectacular blaze, which took six hours to extinguish.

About 11pm the fire was brought under control. It was finally put out at 2.30am, but fire crews remained at the scene overnight.

New Zealand Timber Packaging Ltd managing director Keith Jarman drove down to Taupo this morning from Auckland to survey the damage.

It was not as bad as he had initially feared, Mr Jarman said. He said because of the wind direction the main part of the factory had been unaffected and the fire had missed the parts of the yard where the bulk of the stock was stored.

The fire had however destroyed a shed full of saws. The sawdust produced by the saws was extracted by giant cyclone fans and stored in silos about 12m high and 20 long which were also completely engulfed in flames in the blaze.

Stock stored outside in the yard between the silos and the adjoining motocross track had also been destroyed.

He said as a timber business, fire was always the thing that he dreaded the most and in this case the silos had been turned into "a raging inferno".

New Zealand Timber Packaging Ltd produces components used in the horticultural industry such as crates, bins and pallets and Mr Jarman said it could not run its saws unless it had a way of extracting the sawdust.

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Electricians were on site today to isolate the damaged area and reliven the unaffected part of the factory so it could get back to assembling products for the local market.

However the busy season was just ramping up, when the plant would normally make products such as squash bins and the company was trying to come up with a plan that would allow it to get back to production quickly.

"We've got 30 guys that we've got an obligation to and that want to buy Christmas presents for their kids so we're trying to find work for them so we can keep them employed full time. We'll try and find a second-hand system to get ourselves going - it's about what can we go and find to get it up and running.

"We've had some really good support from other people in the industry offering bits of machinery and so on, so I'm confident we can get it functioning."

An investigator will today return to a Taupo timber business to determine what caused last night's destructive blaze.

Fire Service northern communications shift manager Scott Osmond said the fire was believed to have originated in a cyclone tower used to dry timber.

"It was quite a large fire. The building was involved in fire as well as the silos and panels, [and some scrub around. We had eight fire appliances there at the height of the fire," said Osmond.

Earlier, there was a risk other buildings could burn too.

The fire service spokesman said no injuries were reported.

Video

Photographer Paul Marcroft and his daughter, Frances, were passing the timber business at the time of the fire from their home in Marton on their way to Rotorua.

"We were just driving past and we saw this amazing fire and ended up rubber necking like the rest of the people there," Mr Marcroft said.

He said he took out his camera, which he said he took everywhere, and started taking photos.

"It was pretty intense, I could feel the heat. I was able to get up alongside the neighbouring property which was an automotive business I think but then the automatic gates shut behind me."

The fire at a timber yard. Photo/Paul Marcroft
The fire at a timber yard. Photo/Paul Marcroft


Mr Marcroft said he wasn't frightened because there were plenty of emergency services and firefighters in the area.

However, his 20-year-old daughter, who was still in the car, said she was a bit anxious about the size of the fire.

"Yup, I was definitely frightened."

The fire at New Zealand Timber Packaging. Photo / via Facebook
The fire at New Zealand Timber Packaging. Photo / via Facebook

- NZ Herald

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