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Narrow Escape For Students After Fire at Opotiki College

Narrow Escape For Students After Fire at Opotiki College

The New Zealand Fire Service says 40 teenagers had a narrow escape when a fire tore through part of Opotiki College on Saturday night.

Bay of Plenty Fire Risk Management Officer Jon Rewi said there were a series of lessons for marae and schools to learn from the fire.

“The school had 40 students who were set up to sleep in the wharenui and an adjacent room. The tables and chairs had been pushed across some emergency exits and mattresses laid out on the floors – blocking other exits. The mattresses were placed over under-floor heating vents and as a result of the overheating, the floor of the wharenui caught fire. There does not appear to have been a working fire alarm system – instead a caretaker was alerted when the burglar alarm motion sensor detected the rapidly spreading flames.”

Mr Rewi said “Luckily the students were out of the two buildings at the time. A few hours later and, without an early warning system, those in the wharenui would have been trapped inside, unable to escape out the exits. There almost certainly would have been fatalities.”

He said the blocked exits also made it difficult for the first firefighters to get inside.

The fire caused extensive damage to the wharenui. Mr Rewi said the incident should serve as a warning to other schools and marae to double check their fire safety systems and put in place a careful fire safety plan before hosting overnight stays.

The local Fire Service can always be asked for advice, he said.


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