Newspaper Article 1979 – Tomoana block blazes

Tomoana block blazes

Building becomes a raging inferno

Fire was sweeping through the old slaughterhouse block at the Tomoana freezing works, Hastings, this afternoon.

the hue, rambling three-storey building was a raging inferno from end to end and there seemed little that firemen could do to save it.

As explosions rocked the building police moved onlookers and workers back to safety, There were fears of a major ammonia leak.

An ammonia pipe at the southern end of the building ruptured two hours after the fire began, but firemen said the gas was burning and a fumes danger was not expected.

The fire broke out shortly after midday when most of the building had been cleared for the lunch break.

Earlier two chains – a mutton and a calf chain – had been in operation, but there were no reports of any casualties, though clean-up crews were thought to have been inside when the fire was detected.

Workers said the fire appeared to have started in the alleyway between the northern end of the slaughterhouse and the freezer block.

It appeared there was an explosion which accelerated the spread of the fire.

Workers had no time to get possessions from their  lockers.

Two freezing workers were trapped in the freezer rooms by the flames and had to find their way out of the building by a back entrance.

All emergency services were assembled at the scene – firemen and tenders from Hastings, Napier and Havelock North, police and traffic officers, doctors and ambulances.

An emergency call went out to Hastings civil defence for breathing apparatus.

Though civil defence was not officially called the controller, Hastings town clerk Mr Arnold Baker, rushed from his office to civil defence headquarters in a bid to find breathing apparatus.

A pall of dense black smoke with tongues of flames at the base plumed into the sky, bringing out hundreds of sightseers who clogged the roads to the works.

Among them were anxious women seeking news of their husbands and sons known to have been working in the building.

About 1100 workers were known to be on the plant today, but no one was reported missing.

The fire did not look like spreading to the company’s $12-million new slaughterhouse block which began trials last week.

It might have to come into full operation a lot earlier than originally expected, but union groups have said they will not man the new plant until certain safety and other conditions of work are ironed out with management.

Right: The scene at the Tomoana works this afternoon with flames and smoke belching skyward Below: Staff evacuated from the building watch the fire.

Taken to hospital

Hastings civil defence organiser Mr Alex MacDonald was taken to hospital by ambulance suffering from smoke inhalation at afternoon’s big fire at the Tomoana freezing works.

Mr MacDonald was assisting firemen in an alleyway between the slaughterhouse and the freezer block when he was overcome by smoke.

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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

17 September 1979


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


  • Arnold Baker
  • Alex MacDonald

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