Quick action saves Taranaki church from ‘suspicious’ fire

church fire

Quick action by bystanders and nearby fire crews limited the damage from a fire that broke out at a South Taranaki church on Thursday morning.

The fire in a back porch of St Joseph’s Catholic Church, on Stanners St, Eltham, is being treated as suspicious.

About 9 am, smoke was spotted coming out of the church by two men working on a house renovation across the road.

Neil Shotter immediately phoned Fire and Emergency, while Colin Ogle ran in his gumboots to tell firefighters who were putting out another fire near the Eltham Town Hall.

“We saw the fire brigade down there, then we noticed the smoke from the church, and it was blowing the other way,” Ogle said.

The two suspicious fires in Eltham have kept emergency services busy.

Belinda Beets, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) Central shift manager, says fire appliances from Eltham, Kaponga and Stratford were called out to attend the fires.

Fire and Emergency specialist fire investigator Andrew Cotter said the cause of the church fire was not yet known, but confirmed it was being treated as suspicious.

The speed that the fire was contained saved the church from severe damage.

“It’s a big timber building. If it had developed a bit, it would have been a different story, as far as we know that building doesn’t have a fire alarm system and at this time on a Thursday was probably unoccupied.”

The chief fire officer of the Eltham Volunteer Fire Brigade, Dave Waite, had upgraded the fire to a second alarm due to the size of the building, but it was quickly brought under control, he said.

A police spokesperson at the scene said police were working with FENZ staff.

The earlier fire was in a skip bin near the Eltham Town Hall.


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News category: New Zealand.

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