Evacuations after Balclutha fire

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Firemen from four brigades work to bring the fire under control as thick acrid smoke from the fire filled the surrounding air. Photo: John Cosgrove
Wednesday, 20 May 2020

By John Lewis and John Cosgrove

Authorities evacuated local businesses as Fire and Emergency NZ continued to fight a blaze at a Balclutha motorcycle repair workshop on Wednesday morning, which was believed to contain hazardous materials.
The fire started about 9.50am at a large warehouse, called Ag & Auto Direct, in Barr St.
Fenz shift manager Andrew Norris said four appliances from Balclutha, Milton, Kaitangata and Waiwera South fought the blaze, and the Fire Command Unit from Dunedin also attended because the building contained hazardous materials.
“There were reports of explosions in the building. There was thought to be drums of oil, Acetylene gas and oxygen still in the building.
“The smoke was toxic. The best thing residents could do was isolate themselves indoors and keep doors and windows closed.”
He said only those in businesses in the immediate area had been evacuated and Barr St, Clyde St and James St had been cordoned off.
A reporter at the scene said the fire was still burning at 10.30am and traffic was being diverted through the western side of the town.
Flames were visible in the building, and a thick pall of smoke was coming from the building and could be seen across eastern Balclutha.
McLellan Freight Ltd, which neighbours the property, moved its trucks as a precaution.
The reporter at the scene said big bangs had been heard, and police had moved people back from close to the building as a precaution.
He said by 10.35am it appeared the fire was more under control.

Firemen from four brigades rush to bring the fire under control as thick acrid smoke from the fire filled the surrounding air. Photo: John Cosgrove
Firemen from four brigades work to bring the fire under control as thick acrid smoke from the fire filled the surrounding air. Photo: John Cosgrove