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One person died and three were injured after a fire at a housing block at Burnham military camp in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Photo: RNZ/Nathan McKinnon

Burnham fire - Figure 1
Photo RNZ

The fire station closest to where a person was killed in a fierce fire at Burnham Military Camp was unmanned when it broke out.

A teenage girl is reported to have died in the blaze south of Christchurch that started just after 2am on Wednesday morning, and three others were hurt.

Police and Fire and Emergency investigators are working to establish the cause of the blaze.

The New Zealand Defence Force confirmed the Burnham Military Fire Station was not staffed at the time of the fire, meaning the first station that was able to attend was from Rolleston, at 2.23am, 11 minutes after it received the call to attend.

Burnham fire - Figure 2
Photo RNZ

The Burnham Military Camp fire master arrived on the scene at 2.40am, in a Command vehicle which has no fire suppression capability, it said.

The Defence Force said the military station had been operating at reduced capacity since January this year.

"This is in part due to the need to provide staff respite, and because of low Emergency Responder staffing levels," a spokesperson said.

"As such, personnel provide coverage between 8am and 4.30pm, Monday through Friday."

The decision to operate on reduced coverage was consulted on, and supported by Fire and Emergency area commanders, the Defence Force said.

It said the Memorandum of Understanding between the Defence Force and FENZ ensured that FENZ provided coverage during periods of reduced Defence Force coverage.

Burnham fire - Figure 3
Photo RNZ

"The Burnham Emergency Response Troop maintains the capacity to support a local FENZ response to major events and/or emergencies for discrete periods, such as during the response to the Port Hills fires earlier this year. That response was supported by two NZDF Rural Fire Appliances, and up to six fire-fighters rotating on a daily basis," it said.

The Defence Force has warned the government it is in a dire state, describing it as vulnerable, and the Navy as extremely fragile.

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