Posted on Apr 28, 2020
Sky City Fire… As events go, this is one that probably everyone in Auckland can quickly and easily identify with. We know the building, know the location and know the history.
John Booth spoke to the Club on a recent Zoom meeting. John is a career fire professional having served some 40 years in the service. He is a commander in the Auckland Fire & Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) service. John was engaged in the immediate response team as this event unfolded.
John firstly provided some background about FENZ. The Auckland region extends broadly from Wellsford to Mercer. There are 26 paid fully manned 24/7 stations/appliances, supported by a further 40 volunteer appliances across the region. The service has 5 “Aerial” appliances, 2 “Command” units, a “Hazmat” unit and a “Canteen” unit. Of the 26 fully professional appliances, 20 were deployed to Sky City. Other appliances/stations then provided back-up cover to the rest of Auckland. There were some 115 personnel plus 8 executive team members engaged in the event.

The fire started in the roof as a result of a cardboard core from “torch-on” membrane material being inadvertently ignited. This material was being applied to the plywood roof substrate. Also used in this element of the construction was acoustic material, a fabric of multiple components including a “straw” type compound. The fire was fanned by a 30 knot wind, which accelerated the spread of flame.
The roof is 3 floors above the main auditorium, which was at the time, in final fitout stages. The fire “Riser” at the time was still under construction/fitting and was too low to provide optimum access to water for fire crew.
By late afternoon, it had been decided to let the fire burn and continue to contain it. Throughout the fire control period water was applied at 60litres per second. Some 1 million litres used in the first 12 hours. Much of that water made its way to the basement of the building resulting in some 130 vehicles, plus furniture, fittings and tools being lost.
FENZ eventually involved Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) in the process of the fire control. This involved bringing NZ Cranes giant 100tonne crane to site. With its 20m extension boom it was able to suspend firefighters in a basket above the fire which enabled water to be directed more efficiently.
Fire crews were rotated on 6 hour shifts and John explained in detail the equipment and clothing they used and wore. 
During this event FENZ still had to maintain normal services to the city.  On any given 24 hour period they respond to approximately 200 call outs. On the day of the fire there was also a fire in an apartment block in Albert Street. This involved 6 appliances. Virtually all other stations/trucks were subsequently shuffled around greater Auckland to cover for those units at Sky City and this second event.