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Fire Service's Takaka dairy factory fire findings

New Zealand Fire Service findings into Takaka dairy factory fire.

The New Zealand Fire Service investigators have found a fire at Fonterra’s Takaka milk factory started by radiated heat from welding being carried out as part of off-season maintenance.

On June 21, more than 60 fire fighters from Takaka and nearby districts battled the fire for more than five hours. The fire-fighting efforts resulted in some key areas of the factory being saved from destruction.

Investigators found the fire spread quickly after starting in the ceiling because of extensive use of sandwich board cladding and lining throughout the factory.

No fire separation was installed between the factory’s sprinkler protected areas and those areas without sprinklers or in the roof voids.

This lack of fire separation allowed the fire to develop and spread uncontrolled throughout several parts of the factory.

New Zealand Fire Service fire safety integration manager Gary Talbot says sandwich panelling is notorious for allowing fire to spread and take hold of a large area.

“It is usually with the sudden and rapid failure of the panels that the fire first becomes noticeable,” he says.

Mr Talbot says this fire highlights the need for special precautions to be taken when carrying out maintenance such as welding, cutting and metal grinding.

Painting and sheet metal fabrication contractors had been working in the area where the fire started.

The Fire Service strongly recommends any companies carrying out maintenance at their plants implement robust contractor policies, hot work procedures and a dedicated fire watch by trained personnel during hot work operations.


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