Suspicious fire razes old house

Suspicious fire razes old house

BEN FAWKES – The Dominion Post | Monday, 30 July 2007

A DERELICT central Wellington house has been reduced to a smouldering heap by an early-morning fire.

Neighbours alerted emergency services to the fire, on the corner of Martin Square and Taranaki St, shortly after 8.30am yesterday.

Ten fire engines and dozens of firefighters attended the fire, which was under control by 10.30am.

Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.

Neighbour Carl Sherman said the fire took residents completely by surprise.

“I didn’t realise anything was happening until the first appliance arrived,” he said.

Mr Sherman said the building had been vacant for some time and had recently been taken over by squatters.

“There were lots of streetkids living in there and trashing the place.

“The police came and evicted them last week … now it’s burnt down.”

Mr Sherman speculated that a cigarette butt might have been dropped inside the building, starting the fire.

“A cigarette butt doesn’t start a fire straight away, it has to build up heat first, so a butt could have been dropped four to five hours before the fire started.”

Wellington central fire senior station officer David Utumapu said the cause of the fire was being investigated.

It was being treated as suspicious and the building appeared to have been broken into.

“From experience we know fires don’t start by themselves.

“The door was open when we arrived. The owner has assured us he kept it locked,” he said.

It is understood the building was due to be demolished and replaced by an apartment block.

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