Fire – Fighting ’til dawn

As most of you will be aware, late November saw a major fire at a mechanical workshop in Matakana. Emergency services were notified of the fire at about 2am. Initial crews that turned out to the fire included Warkworth, Mahurangi East and Matakana. The callout was soon escalated and further crews came from volunteer brigades in the surrounding areas, including Leigh, Wellsford, Puhoi and Silverdale. Further permanent crews came from Auckland from as far afield as Devonport and Avondale. In total, 12 fire trucks and three tankers attended the fire, as well as another dozen or so operational support vehicles.  That’s a lot of volunteer man hours involved in the incident. Most of the volunteers would have been required to then go on to their usual day jobs once daylight arrived.  

Water management was of particular importance to the crews, with water having to be pumped out of the river behind the Farmers Market using a portable pump. The water then had to be pushed the several hundred metres along the road to the fire scene.  To do this, and to maintain the water pressure, the water had to pass through a fire truck every couple of hundred metres with the trucks’ powerful pump pushing the water further along and maintaining the pressure required.  
The fire contained many hazards for fire fighters to deal with. Obviously a mechanical workshop could contain some (or all) of the following items such as fuel, oil, chemicals, solvents, gas bottles, oxyacetylene bottles, rubber tyres, car batteries and many more. The smoke can be particularly toxic and explosions can be a real danger. Due to the extreme heat of the fire, steel beams and supports of the roof and walls melted and warped, disengaging from the concrete tilt slab walls, which effectively made the walls unsupported and just balancing in place – a real danger if the walls were to topple, particularly outwards where crews could be stationed.

It took a good couple of hours to bring the fire under control and crews from Auckland then remained at the scene for several hours afterwards to continue to damp down hotspots and make sure no fire flared up again. Fire investigators are still trying to establish the cause of the fire. The scene is now a mangled mess of twisted iron, steel and other debris. The area is cordoned off from entry and while it is of some interest to the passing public, take a moment to consider the owners and employees whose lives have been changed for the short-term. Also severely affected is the owner of a campervan that was on the hoist inside the garage. They were having the vehicle serviced before departing on an early summer holiday. A complimentary wash, wax and vacuum of the campervan just won’t cut the mustard on this occasion!