Regional firefighters were woken to the sound of a call out late last night after a large fire lit up the Nelson Speedway, destroying the top half of one of the buildings.
At the sound of his pager, Richmond Fire deputy chief fire officer and Speedway track official Craig Piner jumped out of bed just after 12.20 last night, and arrived on the scene in the first unit, to find the corporate boxes completely ablaze.
“The top floor of the two-story building was fully involved in fire, it was coming out all the doors and windows. It had blown out the windows in the upstairs part and the northern end of the building was more on fire than the rest,” says Craig.
“There are four corporate boxes upstairs and all but one are completely gutted. Aside from a little bit of smoke damage, the southern room is completely intact. We managed to cut it off before it spread any further or caused too much damage downstairs.”
“I’m an official at the track so it’s really devastating that they’ve lost the building, especially because we’ve got a few meetings left this season like the big Super Stocks meet tonight – the building would have been absolutely packed.”
Five fire engines from Richmond, Stoke, Appleby and Brightwater were joined by the Nelson command unit and were able to gain control of the blaze in under half an hour, completely extinguishing the flames within the hour.
Craig says it took some time before they could send crew inside the building as they were unsure of the floor’s safety.
“We didn’t want to send up guys and have them fall through the floor so it was all basically an external attack until we got it knocked down, then we could send crews in and they could see where they were going and check the floor.”
A fire investigator is currently on the scene but Craig says the fire is not being treated as suspicious.
“We’re just going through it now but there’s nothing suspicious about it at this stage. It’s looking like an accidental fire but we won’t know the cause until he’s had a decent dig and scratch around.”
Craig says he is devastated for the club but will be out on the track showing his support tonight at the South Island Super Stocks.
Nelson Speedway President Wayne Martin says that while the circumstances are less than ideal the show must go on.
“By the time we got there she was pretty well underway, it’s definitely a downer but at the end of the day what is done is done and we’ve just got to move on.”
“Our main focus is the show tonight then tomorrow we’ll reassess the fire. We’re expecting a big crowd tonight and that’s our bread and butter so we’ve got to make sure it all still works the best it can.”
And in the meantime, Wayne says they’ve had an incredible show of support from the community.
“The phone calls I’ve been getting have blown me away, how many people have got in contact with us and are keen to help out is amazing and it’s all appreciated.”