1492481780986 - Midnight fire at rear of Hamilton business was ‘deliberately lit’

Midnight fire at rear of Hamilton business was ‘deliberately lit’

An export business owner is not surprised a fire that tore through the back deck of her Hamilton depot, jeopardising thousands of dollars of product, was arson. 

Wooden pallets and cardboard were used to set the fire that burned a hole in the back of the building in the middle of the former Wholesale Cars business plot on Anglesea St early on Tuesday. 

The fire was purposely lit, fire investigator Kevin Holmes said. 

“They have taken up one of the pallets, throwing it up onto the deck and got some cardboard from the skip which they have used to ignite the pallets.”

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The arson comes amid a spate of suspicious fires that have plagued the Anglesea St area over recent years, including two suspicious fires at tyre shop AH Franks Tyres, the last of which completely destroyed the long-standing business. 

Holmes said the security guard spotted Tuesday’s blaze after midnight and drove around until he found it. 

By then the fire had been burning for an estimated 15 minutes, Holmes said, as the flames had penetrated the building’s joists and had begun to creep through to the interior walls.

No-one was at the site by the time security arrived, Holmes said, but a door leading to an alleyway to Vialou St was left ajar. 

Firefighters from Hamilton and Chartwell doused the blaze, which left smoke damage to the inside of the building.

The building is used as a depot for a China-bound export business, storing products including vitamins, sheepskins, dried fruits and deer pizzle.

Business owner Jill Wu, who leases the building, said the heat likely damaged boxes of export-ready blended manuka honey. 

Each box, containing six jars, was worth about $300 and she estimated about 20 boxes may have been heat damaged. 

“Luckily last night it was all locked, it’s only the smoke damage, the front is fine.”

Wu arrived at the distribution centre not long after the fire. She spent the night in her car to protect her business’s stock because the alarm was disabled. 

Over the past two years, rough sleepers have been using the back of Wu’s building as a makeshift shelter. 

In the months leading up to Christmas 2016, Wu would arrive at work in the morning to find people sleeping on the back deck. They defecated outside and used the outdoor plug to charge phones and cook, she said.

“It used to be okay but it has become worse and worse. Every year we have a rock through the window, something is always happening in town but I never expected fire.”

Yet she believed whoever lit the fire on Tuesday morning had done it purposely and not to keep warm. 

“They used a lot of cardboard. My cardboard bin was almost full and was about to be taken away.”

She had asked the landlord to install a secure fence around the property.

“We need cameras on the street, there’s a lot of gates opening around here, they are all interconnected and you can’t really see anyone if you don’t have cameras.”

Waikato police Senior Sergeant Pete van de Wetering said police attended the fire and were investigating. 

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