Onehunga Industrial Fire Highlights

Emergency Management prevents disaster level destruction 

More than 80 staff and 20 trucks attended a “large and severe” fire in Onehunga as flames erupted at Wakefield Metals and Argus Fire Protection, who specialise in fire protection intelligence systems.

The fire began in the Argus building, where the one worker inside the building heard the alarm, saw flames coming through the ceiling and fetched a fire extinguisher, only to find that the roof had caved in. She escaped the building safely, with Argus general manager Bryce Donaldson reporting that once she left, basically the whole building was on fire within a minute.

Emergency teams confined the fire to the front office area and prevented it from spreading further into the building, or to the Wakefield Metals in the other half of the building. Fire crews were on site for over six hours ensuring that the fire was safely extinguished.

This example of a fire in a commercial building with industrial materials is a sharp reminder of how quickly buildings can be destroyed by fire, and how crucial it is to evacuate swiftly and safely even when alarms are correctly installed and functioning. 

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Factory fire at Argus in Onehunga

Factory fire at Argus in Onehunga

Fire Fighters call for blood tests 

In the 1970s, aqueous film forming foam was used to extinguish aeroplane fires, as it effectively coated the fuel and smothered the flames. Now, the foam is recognised as a toxic substance, that has caused contamination in airports, land, aquifers and waterways… and possibly firefighters. Kiwi Firefighters stopped using it in 2011 and the World Health Organisation classified the foam as a carcinogen in 2016. 

It’s just one of many dangerous chemicals firefighters are exposed to during their work, as industrial and house fires give off various toxins as plastics and solvents burn.

Firefighters have been using foam to extinguish fuel fires for decades. Via STUFF

Firefighter Brett Flintoff died of cancer in January last year, and not long afterwards, ACC approved his wife’s application - the first time in New Zealand a firefighter's cancer was accepted as the result of years of exposure to toxins during his work.

The New Zealand Professional Firefighters' Union is calling for Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) to offer blood testing to firefighters who used PFAS foam before it was banned, and to provide early identify any illness caused by the many toxic chemicals firefighters are exposed to.

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