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Person killed in fire at Burnham military camp was teenage girl

Editor Written by Editor · 3 min read >


The person who died in an early morning fire at Burnham Military Camp in Canterbury was a teenage girl.

The teenager died and three others — one in a serious condition — are in hospital following a large fire that destroyed part of a housing block at camp about 2am today.

Firefighters were called to the building, which is part of the army camp south of Christchurch.

FENZ incident controller Dave Berry told Stuff a teenage girl had died in the blaze.

He also said the Burnham Military Camp fire brigade was unmanned last night, meaning the first station that was able to attend was from Rolleston.

Berry told Stuff it was “unlikely” having the Burnham station manned would have made a difference, as the house was already “well-involved” when the first reports were made.

Berry said the fire was so strong by the time firefighters arrive they were unable to enter the property for about two hours.

When they did enter they found the teenage girl in one of the bedrooms.

Burnham camp commandant Major Julie Richardson said the blaze happened in a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) property outside the military camp’s perimeter fencing.

Richardson could not confirm if the property was occupied by defence force staff or non-military personnel. Some houses in the area were occupied by non-NZDF tenants and their properties managed through commercial property owners.

“Our thoughts are with the whānau who have lost a family member, and all of those impacted by today’s fire,” Richardson said.

“New Zealand Defence Force welfare homes have been opened up for the occupants, and support is being provided to all those affected – including via Defence Community Facilitators and Burnham’s padre.

“While housing at Burnham Military Camp is owned by the NZDF, some is occupied by NZDF personnel and some is tenanted by non-NZDF personnel.”

The cause of the fire had not been determined.

Detective Sergeant Brent Menzies confirmed shortly after 4pm that a body had now been removed and would undergo a formal identification process.

That was “expected to take some time”.

Fire investigators would continue their work at the scene on Thursday.

“Police have referred the death to the Coroner who we are continuing enquiries on behalf of. Police extend our condolences to the family and friends of the deceased who we are providing support to and will continue to keep updated on the investigation.”

Earlier, Fire and Emergency NZ southern shift manager Blair Walklin said multiple calls were received to the Burnham area fire.

“When crews arrived, the house was well ablaze. A number of attached units also suffered damage,” Walklin said.

Investigations are under way after a fatal house fire at Burnham overnight. Photo / George Heard
Investigations are under way after a fatal house fire at Burnham overnight. Photo / George Heard

The fire is now considered contained.

The cause of the fire was unknown. A fire investigator would be attending, he said.

The property remains cordoned off this morning. Photo / George Heard
The property remains cordoned off this morning. Photo / George Heard

This morning, police investigators are on the scene as well as military police and an NZDF fire crew.

A fire investigator will be looking into the cause of the fire at Burnham military camp. Photo / George Heard
A fire investigator will be looking into the cause of the fire at Burnham military camp. Photo / George Heard

Police have confirmed one person has died in the fire, while three patients were taken to hospital according to Hato Hone St John.

Police confirmed one person died in the fire.

Three patients were taken to hospital, Hato Hone St John said.

One operations manager, two rapid response vehicles and three ambulances were sent to the scene, according to a spokesman from the ambulance service.

They treated one patient in a serious condition and two in moderate condition. All three were taken to Christchurch Hospital, he said.

Police said in a statement a scene guard was in place and inquiries into the circumstances of the fire were ongoing.

Crews from nearby Rolleston, Dunsandel, Kirwee, Lincoln, Wigram, Ilam and Christchurch City were called to the fire. Photo / George Heard
Crews from nearby Rolleston, Dunsandel, Kirwee, Lincoln, Wigram, Ilam and Christchurch City were called to the fire. Photo / George Heard

Crews from Rolleston, Dunsandel, Kirwee, Lincoln, Wigram, Ilam and Christchurch City have been fighting the fire.

Photos from the scene show a section of the large two-storey weatherboard building has been gutted, with only charred, buckled framing and the roof remaining.

Weatherboards are also blackened and windows smashed on the adjoining apartments.

The Burnham camp is about 28km south of Christchurch and hosts about 1300 military and civilian personnel, according to the NZ Defence Force website.

House linked to murder catches ablaze in Rangiora

Meanwhile, firefighters have also been dealing with a house fire in the nearby town of Rangiora since about 4am.

The house, on the corner of Southbrook Rd and South Belt, was up for sale but has been razed to the ground.

Video supplied to the Herald shows flames enveloping the historic villa and leaping metres into the air.

The property is linked to the homicide investigation into the alleged murder of Richard Leman. This is at least the third fire at the property, after it was targeted by arsonists last year and allegedly firebombed with a Molotov cocktail in 2022.

Firefighters battled a large house fire on Southbrook Road in Rangiora.  Photo / Blake Benny
Firefighters battled a large house fire on Southbrook Road in Rangiora. Photo / Blake Benny

Witness Peter Benny described the fire as a “huge bonfire”, with flames higher than the telephone poles when he spotted it 100m away.

“It was huge…I stopped and I could feel the heat of the fire from the white line in the middle of the road.”

Realising the neighbours were still asleep – and the windows on their house were heating up – Benny woke the neighbours, got them out of their house and on to the street.

He told one resident to quickly grab her valuables.

“I said to the lady, best get your cars out of the garage because if your house goes, your cars are gone too.”

The Rangiora house is linked to the alleged murder of Richard Leman. Photo / Blake Benny
The Rangiora house is linked to the alleged murder of Richard Leman. Photo / Blake Benny

The heat of the fire was what surprised him, Benny said – it appeared to have stopped the traffic lights from functioning.

“From the middle of the road, you could have walked around in the undies, it was quite pleasant.”

Benny said it was lucky he had been “in the right place at the right time”.

Fenz shift manager Blair Walklin said multiple calls were received just after 4am and three local fire crews were sent to fight the fire.

The house was well ablaze when they arrive and around 5.30am they were still working to extinguish the fire.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage, he said.



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