Firefighters battling blaze at prominent Timaru building

2018-12-05 04:33:57

Neighbours of the now fire damaged former St Vianney's Home of Compassion had ongoing concerns about vandalism at the former hospital and retirement home in Timaru, with multiple reports of young people in the grounds on weekends.

Stuff canvassed neighbouring residents in Morgans Rd following a fire at the building on Tuesday night which ripped through a wing of the complex and required six fire crews, including a specialist command unit and two executive officers, to put out. Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) said emergency services were called at 10.20pm on Tuesday to the blaze in the multi-level building.

The fire, which is being treated as suspicious, occurred just after a serious assault incident was witnessed at a neighbouring property.

A resident who lives near the complex, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was woken about 10.06pm to a serious assault on Morgans Rd next door to St Vianney's.

She looked out a bedroom window and saw someone lying on the neighbouring driveway and someone standing over them in the darkness. She rang her daughter and when she returned to look out the window, she could see St Vianney's was ablaze.

Police confirmed they were searching for two men in relation to the serious assault, which happened on Morgans Rd, Timaru, about 10.30pm on Tuesday.

However, they said no link has been drawn between the fire and the assault.

Another neighbour said there had been a fire at St Vianney's about six months ago.

"You see kids over there [St Vianney's] all the time," he said.

"They cut their way through the paddock. They are just kids being kids."

Another resident said there has been ongoing problems with windows being broken at St Vianney's on weekends.

"We often hear breaking glass and the reason I know it's young people is because I can here the yelling and shouting."

Fenz Mid-South Canterbury assistant area commander Stephen Butler said a fire investigator remained at the scene of the fire on Wednesday afternoon, working to determine the cause.

Fenz Timaru senior station officer Martyn Bennett said the building really needed to be "better secured, or to be demolished".

Speaking to Stuff at the scene late Tuesday, Fenz Timaru senior station officer Garry Parker said the fire broke out in the eastern wing of the building.

Crews from Pleasant Point, St Andrews, Timaru, Geraldine, and Temuka brigades attended the fire.

A suspicious fire gutted part of the same building on December 12 last year, taking fire crews from Timaru, Washdyke and Temuka more than two hours to extinguish that blaze.

Rooney Holdings Ltd bought the land between 2005 and 2013 after the Home of Compassion was closed in 2003.

Plans were made to subdivide the 10 hectare site of the former hospital and retirement home after the land was bought by Rooney Holdings.

The Timaru District Council confirmed in 2016 that a consent had been granted for a proposed residential subdivision.

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