A giant blaze which destroyed part of a Wellington marae was accidental - and probably started by hot embers from a brazier.
The probable cause of the fire at Tapu Te Ranga Marae on June 9 was "hot embers from a brazier being blown by strong winds and igniting combustible material near a storeroom in the main house building".
"The brazier had been used in an open area at the marae the previous evening, but was extinguished around 8pm because of concerns about ember transfer," Fire and Emergency New Zealand [FENZ] said today.
A total of 70 firefighters were called to the fire at the sprawling live-in urban marae at Island Bay.
A group of 36 people staying at the marae - including Scouts on a camp - were forced to flee the blaze. One firefighter received burns to his hands and was taken to hospital.
In a report, FENZ said the group had been using a brazier supplied by the marae, but extinguished the fire about 8pm due to concerns about the wind carrying embers towards the main building.
About 12.30am several adults became aware of a developing fire in the southern end of the building and the group was able to evacuate without injury.
Fire and Emergency Wellington area manager Dave Key said Tapu Te Ranga Marae had an unmonitored fire alarm system but it failed to operate on the night of the fire.
"This was because the alarm system had been isolated following a false alarm earlier in the week, but had not been reset by a technician as required."
Key said the investigation findings showed the potential dangers of using outdoor fires close to homes and buildings.
"This fire is a real tragedy for the marae and the wider community who use the facility. But it does demonstrate just how dangerous hot embers from fires can be, even when it's damp and cold."
The report details how witnesses tried to use a local fire hose reel to battle the blaze, but were unable to suppress the developing fire.
The total structure of the "main house" at the marae was destroyed, with all the upper levels of the building collapsing onto the ground level.
The storeroom, which is where the fire started, contained stacked chairs, bags and electrical appliances that were in storage and not connected to a power source.
The fire investigators found the brazier 14.8m southwest from the building, containing the remains of burnt wood. An examination of the ground between the brazier and the main house revealed a number of patches of scorched grass and the remains of embers.