Wellington Regional Hospital fire: Eight floors suffer water damage

Three upper floors of Wellington Regional Hospital’s main tower block are significantly damaged by water after a fire broke out on the top level overnight.

Fire and Emergency NZ assistant area commander Michael Dombroski said a major call out was triggered to respond to an early morning fire on the top floor of the city’s main hospital.

He said an alarm was set off at 2am after a blaze erupted in a switchboard in the hospital’s plant room on the eighth floor.

The blaze, which was located in the top floor beneath the helipad, sparked a fourth alarm, with 11 fire crews heading to the central Wellington hospital.

Dombroski said the fire was contained to the room by the internal sprinkler system and had been partially extinguished by the time first crews arrived.

Firefighters, carrying equipment up eight floors to reach the burning room, put the fire out but were left with a massive salvage operation after significant amounts of water cascaded down into the lower levels of the block.

“The fire was being contained by the building’s sprinkler system and partially extinguished by the system but the fire service finished putting out the fire after which we focused our efforts on salvage as there was a considerable amount of water damage seeping through the lower floors beneath level eight because of the sprinkler system,” he said.

While the blaze had been contained to one internal room in a switchboard about the size of a door, the rest of the floor had suffered serious smoke damage.

Dombroski said it was a large response to the blaze which was mostly precautionary due to the high-rise nature of the fire.

He said it was a labour-intensive, resource-intensive operation to get one hose line working to fight the blaze.

Fire crews remained at the hospital for four hours.

“Most of our time was taken up in the recovery phase assisting with salvage and preventing further flood damage,” said Dombroski.

“There’s a significant amount of water damage which decreased as you went down. It even went down to level one where there was a puddle. From eight, seven, six it’s quite significant where damage has been done.”

Fire investigators would be returning to the hospital today to probe the cause of the blaze .

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