A ferocious fire that ravaged an historic Christchurch sports bar and destroyed irreplaceable sports memorabilia was caused by self-combusting laundry.
The Fitz Sports Bar on Fitzgerald Ave was gutted during the early morning blaze on October 9.
It caused significant interior damage and destroyed the bar's famed collection of sports memorabilia, including Crusaders and All Blacks jerseys, Canterbury Rams basketball singlets and Wellington Phoenix FC football shirts.
Also gone are 24 different New Zealand Warriors rugby league jerseys that used to hang from the bar's ceiling, including an original 1995 DB Bitter Warriors jersey later signed by club legends Stacey Jones, Manu Vatuvei and others.
"It's sad ... you'll get monetary dollars back for your loss, but you won't get those tops back," says manager Dean Baldwin.
"But the big picture is it was 5am and not 5pm when we're busy so as much as we'll never be able to replace that some of that memorabilia, we'll replace it with other stuff."
The fire assessor's final report concluded that the fire was started by combusting laundry.
The bar had a decade-long ritual of washing tea towels and bar towels overnight and in the morning the cleaner would come in, take them out of the washer, put them in the drier and, before she left, move them into two washing baskets.
"The official word from the assessor was those hand towels and tea towels that we wash combusted and created the fire," says Baldwin, who co-owns the bar with Paul Kofoed and Christy Mong.
"I guess it's unlucky ... I'd never heard of clothes or items from a drier combusting."
It's not yet been determined whether the well-known bar will be repaired or rebuilt.
But Baldwin thinks it'll be at least 12 months before the doors are open again.
By then, work on the nearby new covered multi-use stadium will be well under construction and Baldwin thinks they will be an attractive spot for workers – and once it's complete, a prime watering hole for red-and-black sports fans.
"As much as it was an awful thing to happen, there might be a shining light at the end," he says.
"There's been a lot of people asking what we're going to do and we're just looking forward to being able to do our thing again."
The Fitz has already received a donated framed Kiwis jersey from the 2011 Anzac test which also remembers the February 22, 2011 earthquake victims.
"When we get into the new spot, that will be pride of place in the bar. We'll be back," Baldwin says.