John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Mystery surrounds cause of Tauranga fire

The aftermath of the Birch Ave fire in which officials and victims get the paperwork sorted. Photo/Andrew Warner.
The aftermath of the Birch Ave fire in which officials and victims get the paperwork sorted. Photo/Andrew Warner.

Tauranga Fire Service and insurance investigators were today trying to discover the cause of the blaze which left a Birch Ave storage shed a charred and twisted mess.

The shed was used by Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing, one of three businesses neighbouring the shed that were saved by the combination of a fire wall and the skills of fire fighters.

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Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing owner Craig McCord said one of his first calls today would be to congratulate the builder who put up the Gib fire wall.

"It absolutely did its job.".

The heat was so intense in the shed that steel trusses buckled and aluminium scaffolding melted while on the other side of the wall there was virtually no damage.

The Mixed Martial Arts Fight Club's emblem painted on the opposite side of the fire wall was not even cracked, he said.

Complete Roofing Services was the other business fronting Birch Ave in the Judea Industrial Area that was saved from the flames.

Mr McCord had discounted an electrical fault as the cause of the fire which broke out at about 5am on Saturday. It needed six crews to bring it under control and dampen down.

We do a lot of fire reparation work so it's ironic to be on the other side of the fence for once.
Craig McCord

The trades businesses were left relatively untouched while the fight club, which received some smoke and water damage, was back in action yesterday.

Mr McCord said that because the shed was used for storage, they had made the decision not to store anything flammable inside and they always turned off the main switch on the switchboard.

He said he was told by police that they did not think there was anything sinister behind the fire. His biggest upset was losing his classic 1973 Norton Commando motorbike which he put into the shed only three weeks earlier because of concerns about the impact on the bike from the marine environment at Mount Maunganui where he lived.

He bought the uninsured Commando 25 years ago as a restored bike and had kept it in mint condition since then, entering it inshows.

Mr McCord said that in the cold light of day, the fire had been quite a shock but he was philosophical. He now faced the long process of dealing with the insurance company followed by the demolition and rebuild.

Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing has been in the McCord family since 1946, with four generations working for the business.

"We do a lot of fire reparation work so it's ironic to be on the other side of the fence for once," Mr McCord said. "As they say in the fire service, it was a total loss. There's nothing salvageable."

His father Brian McCord was also at the scene of the fire on Saturday. "The back part is a total write off. I'm sure my son will be pretty upset about the motorcycle.''

The stench of smoke was still strong along the street on Saturday and the MMA fight club was airing and drying equipment on the footpath.

Fire investigator John Rewi said on Saturday that the fire started in the storage shed but he did not yet know the cause.

A police spokeswoman said they were alerted to the fire around 5am when a motorist saw smoke and "large flames".


By the numbers
- Call Received 5.17am on Saturday
- Six crews called in from Tauranga stations
- Last crew left shed at 12.55pm

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