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Sprinkler saves NZI building

By Chris Hutching

Friday 31st October 2003

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The value of "Drencher" building sprinkler systems were brought home to owners of several commercial buildings in central Christchurch last week when a fire destroyed the 100-year-old Wentworth building and could have spread to nearby properties.

Christchurch chief fire officer, David Buford, said there was no doubt that the Wormald drenchers saved the neighbouring NZI building from going up in flames. Property Manager for the NZI building John Raso of Colliers International, said tenants were able to occupy the building the next day.

"The price of installing the drenchers is a tiny percent of what their neighbouring tenant will be paying through loss of business," Mr Raso said.

He was referring to the owners of The Shades arcade, Elders, part of Eric Watson's business empire. The Shades was damaged when part of the wall of the Wentworth building collapsed.

The drenchers are maintained by Wormald as part of an easily installed sprinkler system. Their purpose is to soak the outside of a building with water, preventing a threatening fire from infiltrating the building.

The fire in the Wentworth building was allegedly arson. Three people have been arrested. The former stables-turned car park building, owned by Tracy Gough, is located behind several bars and restaurants on Oxford Tce, most of which are owned by his brother Anthony.

The Goughs appointed public relations practitioner David Lynch to maintain contact with tenants, many of whom lost takings on the night of the fire because few evacuated diners returned to pay for their meals.

On the bright side, the fire has speeded up redevelopment of the site which would otherwise have been the subject of arguments about its historic status.

It was being demolished this week and the Goughs had already received expressions of interest from developers.

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