Owners of destroyed Piha fish and chip shop 'heartbroken'

NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB Staff,
Publish Date
Sunday, 7 May 2017, 6:28AM
A second helicopter has been sent to Piha where a number of homes are at risk from a large scrub fire. (Alistair Wilkinson/Twitter)
A second helicopter has been sent to Piha where a number of homes are at risk from a large scrub fire. (Alistair Wilkinson/Twitter)

UPDATED 3.15pm

Piha residents are fuming after the biggest fire yet in what could be a spree of arsons.

Residents of the west Auckland beachside settlement awoke this morning to ash falling on their properties, as three blazes raged on since being lit in the early hours.

While firefighters tried to manage a blaze tearing through a well-known fish and chip shop on the beach, two more fires started on the hills.

They've since been brought under control, but the area is blackened.

The owners of the fish and chip shop said they are heartbroken by the news. 

Adrian and Vicki Doggett were at Nadi airport this morning about to depart after a "gorgeous week in Fiji" when they received a phone call telling them about the fire.

Mr Doggett said an innocent little fish and chip shop has been the victim of "sickos".

He said they have insurance and are thankful no one has been hurt.

Fire incidents controller Craig Moran said they're working with police to determine how this latest suspicious fire started.

At this stage the cause is still unknown, he explained. 

There were 90 firefighters fighting the blazes, a number of whom had been working throughout the night battling the fire. ​

At least one home was evacuated, after the fire broke out in the early hours of this morning. Two other homeowners had been given advice about evacuation and some 20 properties, within a 1km radius of the blaze, were at risk.

One local told the Herald it had been a bit worrying seeing the flames and smoke overnight.

"Our yard is smattered with ash, so it has been a huge blaze.

"We are within a kilometre of the surf club and surrounded by trees, so have cause for concern too."

Another who'd also had a worrying night watching the flames thanked the fire crew for their effort.

She posted on Facebook about the smell of the fire and hearing it flaring in the vegetation. Her son was fighting the fire.

"What you can't smell is the fire, the cracking and falling of branches or hear the voices of the brave volunteers fighting the fire."

"I'm awake, because A - I can see the fire. B- my son is one of those volunteers and I won't sleep until he's back home. Thanks to this firestarter my son is fighting the biggest fire he's seen in six years."

Seventeen crew and two helicopters were tasked with battling the large blaze, which started after another suspicious fire in the fish and chip shop next to the Piha Surf Life Saving Club.

Two others were started in the scrub as crew extinguished the fire in the popular beachfront shop.

Adey's Place manager Kim Morris told Fairfax he had just arrived back in Piha about 1.30am when fire sirens sounded and he began receiving messages from friends and customers.

He had spent the night watching the fire move up the hillside.

"You could just see the glow, just lighting up the sky from the main fire."

Morris was due to survey the damage to his store this morning.

"I hear the whole inside's pretty much gone," he told Fairfax. "It's a very old building. A fire wouldn't take long - 10 minutes, 15 minutes - and it would destroy it just like that."

Morris said the spate of suspicious fires had rattled the Piha community.

"There's a lot of fires putting people's lives in danger, and there's a lot more to consider than just [Adey's]," he told Fairfax.

"I'm pretty rattled, it's all pretty scary and I hope everyone's okay. I hope not too much damage is done.

The Fire Service indicated the fires appeared suspicious.

Crew have so far managed to contain an area of fire along the Tasman Lookout.

This morning, one helicopter went in at first light to dump water on the two fires burning in separate areas of scrub. Another one followed shortly after to help with the flames.

North Fire Communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said the priority had been to protect properties.

"The fire itself is about 1km away from the nearest structures, and at least one house has been evacuated."

The spate of fires, overnight, follows a number of suspected arsons in recent weeks at the beachside settlement.

A police guard was at the scene of the latest fires and a specialist fire investigator was expected to return at 10am to investigate what sparked them.

A multi-agency command point had been established in the South Piha carpark next to the surf club.

The Fire Service said ambulances were also on standby as a precaution for firefighters.

- NZ Herald


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