Tapu Te Ranga Marae fire accidental investigation finds
A fire investigation report into a devastating blaze at Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Wellington on 9 June has found it was accidental.
The probable cause of the fire 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 Wellington Area Manager Dave Key says the report’s findings show the potential dangers of using outdoor fires close to homes and buildings, even during winter.
"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," Mr Key says.
Embers from any fires, whether indoor or outdoor, should be placed in metal containers with lids and thoroughly doused with water to make sure they are fully extinguished.
Mr Key says the fire also highlights the benefits of sprinkler systems in buildings such as marae, where fire can spread extremely rapidly because of the large, open-plan wooden structures.
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.
Mr Key says the best option for public buildings was to have a monitored alarm system installed, which was either connected directly to Fire and Emergency or monitored by a private company. This would ensure the quickest response time in the event of a fire.
Many building owners were under the misconception that if a monitored system had a false alarm, it would result in a false alarm charge, he says. However, Fire and Emergency hasn’t charged for false alarms since it came into existence on 1 July 2017.