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Fire guts Kaiti units

Tenants in a block of units in Kaiti were left with little more than the clothes on their backs when fire ripped through two of the units last night.

Fire and Emergency NZ sent four appliances to the property opposite the London St Fish Shop at around 7.35pm.

Clouds of black smoke billowed from the blazing building and could be seen from many parts of the city.

“As we pulled up outside the fire was just starting to break through the building structure in several places,” said Station Officer Margaret Middleton-Echave, who led the first-in crew.

“Shortly after that the two units on the left-hand side of the four-unit building were totally involved in fire.”

SO Middleton-Echave said they had ascertained no one was inside any of the units by that stage.

“Everyone got out all right, thank God,” she said.

The crews adopted a defensive firefighting approach initially to protect the two units on the right-hand side of the building.

“The fire had started to get into the section of the roof over the right-hand units but a fire wall down the middle of the building effectively saved them,” said Senior Station Officer Ed Hindmarsh.

“It took us about an hour to get the fire under control.”

Sergeant Scott Leighton from Gisborne police made sure everyone in the four units was accounted for.

“There were as many as 16 people living in there and thankfully no one was injured,” he said.

The former Kainga Ora/Housing NZ building has been in private ownership for some years.

The blaze started at the rear of the downstairs portion of the unit on the left-hand side of the complex.

The Gisborne Herald understands the tenants in that unit had gone out not long before the fire started.

“The alarm was raised initially by the tenant in the unit above who saw smoke coming up through the floorboards,” Sgt Leighton said.

“The landlord's son, who lived in one of the units, grabbed a garden hose and tried to slow down the fire in the unit where it started, but it took hold.”

SSO Hindmarsh said the two units primarily affected by the fire were gutted.

“The other two units were affected by the dense toxic smoke and heat.”

Sergeant Leighton said all four units were uninhabitable.

“That's the sad thing about it. At a time of housing shortage in the city you now have as many as 16 people who have nowhere to live and who have not got much more than the clothes on their backs.”

Specialist fire investigator Derek Goodwin and police detectives began a scene examination this morning in an effort to establish the cause.

Fire crews were at the scene for five hours dampening down.

A crew from the Manutuke volunteer brigade was called into the city to provide cover while the city crews went about their work.

Police mounted a scene guard on the property overnight.

Fire London Street
Fire London Street
Fire London Street
Fire London St
COLD LIGHT OF DAY: The fire-damaged units on London Street this morning. Two of the units were gutted while the other two suffered smoke and heat damage. Picture by Paul Rickard