Forest and Bird society lodge destroyed in fire

Forest and Bird society lodge destroyed in fire

28 October 2008

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New Zealand — Investigations are under way into a large fire which destroyed a Royal Forest and Bird Society lodge on Mount Ruapehu early today.

The fire was reported at the 20x30m two-storey lodge shortly after midnight, central fire communications shift manager Andrew Tollison said.

The blaze was out by 3.30am, but firefighters would continue dampening down the area, he told NZPA.

The lodge, located near Whakapapa Village, was left “pretty much destroyed”.

Fire crews attended from as far afield as Wanganui.

No one was injured, and a National Park police spokesman told NZPA it was thought no one was staying at the lodge last night, although people had been there earlier in the weekend.

He said fire safety officers and police were about to start their investigation.

With the amount of damage sustained, it was likely the building would be demolished, he said.

The society’s website says the lodge was situated five minutes walk from Whakapapa Village, at the foot of Mount Ruapehu.

It was described as an ideal base for skiing, tramping or simply hot-pooling around the area, including Tongariro National Park.

The lodge had a wood burner, spacious lounge and views of Mt Ruapehu, and slept up to 32 people.

Society general manager Mike Britton said the building was insured for replacement and ” that certainly helps”.

He said the lodge was widely used, not just by the society’s 38,000 members but also by other groups such as Girl Guides, Scouts and tramping clubs.

“It’s in a unique area.

“The Department of Conservation general policy does allow for rebuilding, but not necessarily on the same site, so obviously if we do rebuild it’ll have to be a negotiation with the department.

“We’ll obviously have to make a decision as an organisation on whether we do want to replace it,” Mr Britton said.

“It’s certainly very popular with our members so obviously there’ll be pressure on us to do so, so, hopefully, we will. It’s a bit sad really.”

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