A South Auckland church cannot explain yet why the temporary homes destroyed in a fire did not have smoke alarms.
Eighteen people are without a home after fire destroyed buildings at the Māngere Bridge church complex where families have been living in temporary accommodation.
FENZ assistant commander Chris Delfos said there were no sprinklers and no evidence of smoke alarms in the church buildings housing the families.
The Tongan church said the revelation was concerning.
When asked if the buildings had fire alarms and sprinklers, Akoteu Faka-Kalisitiane Ko Namoa Church trustee, Frank Koloi said “I don’t think so, no.”
He said he was not aware landlords were responsible for ensuring smoke alarms were installed in buildings.
“We’re not sure at the moment, and we’ve gone through some of the information we have so far and we don’t know why they weren’t working or used.”
Fire alarms would be installed in the remaining properties on Friday, he said, with the help of FENZ to demonstrate how they worked.
The buildings were inherited when the land was bought in 1996 and were soon refurbished. The church was aware of their age and was forming plans to demolish and replace them.
“The first thing that came to mind … when I first heard the news is ‘thank God – we will now start refurbishing, and building at the back, proper housing for our families’,” Kaloi said.
After FENZ’s initial inspection of the site it suspected electrics were responsible for starting the blaze.
However, Kaloi insisted they were always up to standard.
“We have always tried to be compliant with council and we are regularly inspected, and we have continually maintained our warrant of fitness in those inspections.”
It was thanks to one resident inside the buildings that the incident was not much worse.
“One of the fathers who, when woken up … he ran around to the back of the houses and disconnected the gas bottles and threw them away as fast as he could … so that the fire couldn’t get to them and cause some kind of explosion.
“It definitely made a big difference.”
Minister at the church Rami Nicholas said survivors were not given time to retrieve anything from their homes before they fled.
“Most of the survivors lost all their belongings … I think one totally lost her car, so they’re left with nothing, just the clothes on their back.”
Despite the day’s events, he said the survivors were doing okay.
“No one died, and everyone came out of this, and we’re just happy and grateful the Lord has blessed them and the Lord has taken care of them.”
For neighbour Mei Hana, it was terrifying being woken at 3am to a blaze just outside the window.
He said they were told to grab what they could and evacuate, standing helplessly at the fire, questioning if his newly bought house would turn to ashes.
“We were pretty shaken up by it especially once we saw the pine trees in the back of the property go up in flames.
“It wasn’t until 5 o’clock that we were allowed back in and we saw how lucky we were.”
Auckland councillor for Manukau Alf Filipaina said it was heart-warming seeing the community come together in support.
“It was just good seeing people, obviously doing the investigation and helping as much as they can, but knowing that the children and their parents – the families, were being looked after.”
For those not so lucky, there had been plenty of community help.
The church said donations had been overwhelming, with hundreds of dollars, clothes, food, bedding and medicine flowing in.
The families were staying at the church hall in the meantime and it was not clear where they would live.