All Auckland trains cancelled as large Favona fire prompts ...

31 May 2023
All Auckland trains cancelled as large Favona fire prompts ...


Fire hits scrap metal yard in Auckland's Favona

The chief executive of the Favona site where a huge scrap metal fire broke out is “deeply sorry” for the inconvenience it has caused Aucklanders.

A number of Auckland’s train services have been cancelled until further notice after KiwiRail had to evacuate its control centre due to the toxic smoke caused by the fire.

All trains were cancelled for a time on Wednesday morning due to the evacuation and operations had to be transferred to Wellington.

By 11am, southern line services were running again between Penrose and Britomart, while Onehunga and Eastern services remained cancelled. Western Line services were seeing cancellations and delays up to 20 minutes.

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David Burrows, Sims Metal CEO, said the fire had started in a pile of recycled material that was waiting to be processed.

”Our team are working alongside Fire and Emergency NZ to reduce the size of the pile and expose the material so the fire can be extinguished.

“While we’re making progress, due to the size of the pile we expect it will take some time to fully extinguish the fire.”

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Firefighters are fighting a blaze in South Auckland on Wednesday. Residents have been warned to keep doors and windows closed.

Burrows said he wouldn’t “speculate” on the cause of the fire but a review would be conducted of the incident.

“The health and welfare of our community, neighbours and employees is of paramount importance to us, and we are deeply sorry for the inconvenience this incident has caused.”

Stuff understands King's College in Ōtāhuhu has been closed for the day with students asked to stay away from the vicinity.

Papatoetoe High School was also closed according to a Facebook post – students have been asked to work from home and stay indoors.

Residents had been advised to close all windows and doors and to contact their health provider if they had any health issues.

Brad Mosby,​ Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) district manager, said there’s been a shift in the wind and smoke from the fire is now moving north to include suburbs of Greenlane, Ellerslie, Mt Wellington and Penrose.

South Auckland remains affected by the smoke.

"We’re asking people to take care and keep their windows and doors shut, wear a mask as a precaution while outside."

An Emergency Message Alert was issued to the neighbourhoods south of the fire at 6am on Wednesday, asking residents to stay away from the smoke and keep doors and windows closed.

Fenz said the emergency alert had been extended as a result of the wind shift.

It’s not the first time firefighters have been called to this address – with this the third time in seven years.

Melanie Earley/Stuff

An emergency alert has been issued to residents in south Auckland.

In 2018, it took firefighters 36 hours to extinguish the blaze at what was then called Sims Pacific Metals. The fire consumed 1600 tonnes of waste material sending toxic plumes of toxic smoke throughout south Auckland.

A year earlier, in 2017, 12 fire trucks and two aerial appliances were called to battle a similar blaze.

At the scene of this morning’s fire, Gary Lane​, assistant fire commander Waitematā District​, said ​the first crews to arrive came across a fire within a lot of metal including car parts and refrigerators.

“Fortunately, all those materials have been drained of dangerous liquids. The only thing we have that is possibly contaminating the smoke are the by-products of burning plastic.”

Lane said Fire and Emergency NZ had three diggers going through the debris.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Toxic plumes of smoke can be seen over South Auckland after a scrapyard fire in Favona.

“The plan is to keep separating all that metal and make sure we contain the fire, which we are doing.”

A Fenz spokesperson said crews were called to the scene shortly after midnight and found a pile of scrap car parts on fire.

“On arrival fire trucks found a 70 by 70 metres,10 metres high pile of scrap metal on fire. Up to 30 trucks and support vehicles have attended the incident throughout this morning.”

The spokesperson said the fire is contained to the scrap metal pile, but would be burning for “some time”.

“The smoke plume is significant and is likely to remain that way throughout the day. There are concerns the smoke from the fire is toxic and may affect people in the area.”

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Three diggers going through the debris in Favona.

Auckland City Council environmental and pollution officers are also at the fire.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said it was contacting all schools, kura and early learning services in the affected areas.

“Our advice is to follow the updates and guidance from Fire and Emergency. For those affected, boards of trustees and centre owners make the decision to close their sites and the best information will come from schools themselves.”

Parents and whānau were advised to check their school’s website or Facebook page or contact them directly for the latest information.

At about 11am, a Middlemore Hospital spokesperson confirmed no patients had turned up so far as a result of toxic fumes.

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