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Awhitu House; a timely reminder for all marae

Awhitu House ¡V a timely reminder for all marae

The loss of irreplaceable taonga and a whare tawhito (heritage building) is a timely wake up call for all marae, says the New Zealand Fire Service.

On Saturday evening Awhitu House, an 1870¡¦s building, which linked with Taumutu marae, burnt to the ground in Taumutu, Christchurch.

¡§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.

¡§An ideal fire safety measure in this instance would have been a sprinkler system, which would have controlled or put the fire out early.¡¨ ¡§The best solution to prevent fires is to practise fire safe behaviour around the marae. All marae should be prepared in case a fire occurs. Plans should be made ahead of time to protect people, buildings and other taonga.¡¨

"The incident at Awhitu House was particularly heartbreaking because the marae had placed whakapapa manuscripts in a safe in the house to protect them. Unfortunately the safe wasn¡¦t fire proof. We don¡¦t expect to find much in the way of retrievable items when the safe is opened,¡¨ said Piki Thomas.

We recommend all marae take the following steps to protect taonga such as whakapapa manuscripts: „h Secure taonga in a fire proof safe „h Photocopy important documents and store copies in another location „h Scan information and pictures and store on computer disks or the computer hard drive

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.

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