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Marae Fire – a timely reminder

Marae Fire – a timely reminder.

The charred remains of an ancestral meeting house in Rotorua is a timely wake up call for all marae, says the New Zealand Fire Service.

On Sunday evening the carved meeting house named after the legendary Tutanekai of the Hinemoa and Tutanekai love story in Rotorua was involved in fire.

“This is an unfortunate but timely reminder for all marae to manage the risk of fire for our tupuna whare (ancestral houses) said Piki Thomas, Fire Service National Advisor - Maori. “The Fire Service recommends that all marae meeting houses install smoke alarms to give early warning of a fire and sprinklers to control any outbreak of fire. They should also have an evacuation plan to ensure efficient evacuation of the building in the event of a fire.”

"The incident was particularly heartbreaking because the fire had damaged carvings dating back to 1870,” said Piki Thomas.

As yet, the cause of the fire isn’t known however a fire safety officer will visit the scene of the fire at first light to conduct an investigation into it’s cause.

The Fire Service urges all marae to consider fire safety for their buildings - particularly for sleeping areas.

"Marae should remember the Maori concept of manaaki tangata - the ethos of caring for one another - when thinking about marae fire safety.

“Having people sleep in marae buildings without early fire warning devices ridicules the concept of manaaki tangata.

“Most marae are constructed with little or no fire rated materials to reduce fire spread and even when they are the open plan layout isn't designed to stem the flow of fire.

“Marae need early fire detection systems to identify fires while they are small and an evacuation plan to provide a safe and speedy exit,” said Piki Thomas.

Fire Service staff are available to discuss marae fire safety options for each marae.

This is a free service that is available to marae committees and trusts.

Contact your local fire safety officer or Piki Thomas for more information.

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