Firefighters are using heat-seeking drones to detect hot spots in a fire that has been burning at an Auckland waste facility since yesterday afternoon.
At a press conference this afternoon Auckland Assistant Area Commander Michael Manning said at least six pumping fire and two aerial fire trucks and crew remained at the scene of the large blaze at Green Gorilla in Ōnehunga.
Manning said the fire was now contained but there was still much work to be done before it was extinguished.
An Urban Search and Rescue drone team had now joined the operation flying in the devices to seek out hot spots in the still-burning wood pile.
“They will be able to give us some heat signatures from the pile which will help us to better deploy our aerial appliances so we can progress the fire,” he said.
Neighbouring residences remained evacuated with smoke drifting across the suburb continuing to pose a health hazard.
Those affected by the smoke were told to stay indoors and close doors and windows.
Water supply runs low at Green Gorilla waste fire
Fire crews remained at the scene overnight, while the waste facility’s chief executive claimed there was not enough water to fight the fire.
Watercare this afternoon disputed the claims, saying there was sufficient water amounts for firefighting.
Commuters are being told to expect delays if travelling in the area with one westbound lane on Neilson St has just reopened after the route was closed after the fire. However, one lane remains closed between Alfred St and Galway St today. Auckland Transport has advised motorists to expect delays.
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Commuters are also being told to expect heavy traffic congestion in the areas of Ōnehunga, Māngere and SH20.
Earlier yesterday, large flames and billowing smoke could be seen for several kilometres as emergency services responded to the massive fire at the Green Gorilla Waste Facility on Victoria St.
Green Gorilla CEO Elaine Morgan said the lack of water hindered the firefighters’ ability to put the blaze out.
“I heard that it is an issue throughout Auckland maybe the supply of water was not as well as it could have been,” Morgan said.
“I don’t think they had enough hydrants in proximity that they could hook off for the amount of water that they needed.”
A Watercare spokesperson denied the claims, saying they were “satisfied with the performance and pressure in the Onehunga water network”.
However, Watercare maintenance teams were dispatched to the scene to assist firefighters to find hydrants.
Morgan said she is looking through CCTV footage with fire investigators to identify the cause of the fire.
Police began evacuations of commercial buildings immediately downwind from the fire on the street at 3.45pm.
Two helicopters that assisted ground crews throughout the afternoon ceased flying at 8.15pm.
“Ground crews will work on rotation through the night to attempt to extinguish the fire. The fire remains contained, but is still active,” Fenz said in a statement at 9.30pm.
Fresh crews are set to arrive on the scene this morning, with operations expected to continue through most of the day.
The NZTA Waka Kotahi traffic cameras show plumes of grey smoke still coming from the fire. Fenz has advised those nearby to stay out of the fire.
Plumes of grey smoke are still coming from the fire at the waste facility in Ōnehunga. Photo / NZTA.
“There will continue to be smoke in the area this evening, and likely into the morning. Anyone in the vicinity is advised to keep out of the smoke,” Fenz said.
Fire investigators will return to the scene today to ascertain the cause of the fire.
People living in nearby homes were being urged to close their windows and doors as 22 crews battled the large fire yesterday. Two helicopters were also in the air fighting the fire.
In a statement, Green Gorilla said no one was harmed in the fire at its state-of-the-art commercial and industrial waste processing facility.
“At Green Gorilla, the safety of our community, employees, and the environment remains our utmost priority. I want to reassure everyone that no one has been harmed as a result of this incident,” CEO Elaine Morgan said.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation, Morgan added, but the immediate focus was ensuring the safety of staff and those in the surrounding area.
Fire crews and workers at the Gorilla Green Waste facility. Photo / Dean Purcell
“We are working in partnership with FENZ and Auckland City Council to respond to the fire and mitigate any potential impacts on the community and environment,” Morgan said.
“I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the dedicated Green Gorilla staff for their swift response to the fire incident. Through their adherence to safety protocols and best practices, we have thankfully avoided any injuries. The health and safety of our team and the community are always our top priorities, and their commitment to these principles has been exemplary.”
Morgan also said Green Gorilla services, including its four transfer stations, will continue to operate as normal.
The Green Gorilla facility in Ōnehunga processes more than 10,000 tonnes of commercial, construction and demolition waste each month.
This includes separating recyclable materials such as metal, wood, rubble, cardboard, paper, aluminium cans, steel, and plastic bottles, the company said. The wood chipping operation converts treated and untreated wood into useful products such as biofuel, landscaping chips, and animal bedding.
The smoke was visible from more than 20km away in Milford on Auckland’s North Shore, a photo from a Herald reader shows.
The fire at the Gorilla Green Waste facility on Victoria Rd in Ōnehunga. Photo / Dean Purcell
Fire crews battle the massive blaze. Photo / Dean Purcell
People on social media said the flames were six to nine metres high, while others have reported seeing the fire from the nearby Southwestern Motorway.
A staff member at a nearby business said they could see a large plume of black smoke coming from the building.
”The flames have risen considerably and are well above the building we can see which is about 8-9m high.
“It’s quite windy here, a southwesterly wind is blowing.”
St John said it responded with one ambulance and two rapid response units on scene but has not treated any patients.
Large flames and billowing smoke can be seen for several kilometres as emergency services respond to a massive fire at a waste facility in Ōnehunga, Auckland. Photo / Hayden Woodward
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.
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