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Dunedin firefighters ‘saved city block’

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Firefighters saved an entire Dunedin city block by gallantly attacking a massive blaze yesterday, a businessman says. Jack Crawford, an optometrist forced to flee his premises next door to the building which went up in flames on Moray Place, said he had feared other buildings would also go up in smoke.

Mr Crawford and his staff saw the flames take hold from their windows overlooking the scene. The fire appeared to have started on the second floor of the five storey Bracken Court building.

“The flames were just gushing out… within literally minutes there was thick acrid smoke, heat, breaking glass and just general chaos,” Mr Crawford said today.

“The fire service did a tremendous job to save the city block. Because of the way the building butted up against some other buildings… there was every chance they could have gone up as well.

“The wind was blowing flames in our direction but firefighters were able to stop it,” he told National Radio.

The blaze, which broke out yesterday afternoon, took five hours to extinguish and crews were left on standby overnight.

A fire service investigation was ongoing today, Dunedin’s chief fire officer Dave Seque said.

“We couldn’t even begin to guess at the cause. We’ll be interviewing residents and witnesses today.”

If there turned out to be anything suspicious about the blaze, police would be called back in.

Five firefighters were taken to hospital with minor burns and injuries and one was kept there overnight with a burnt ear, he said.

Three other high rise buildings were damaged in the blaze and were at one stage threatened by the fire.

“It was a very quick response. All of Dunedin’s paid firefighters were at the scene, while volunteer brigades from around Otago moved in to cover the city,” Mr Seque said.

Half the crews at Moray Place worked on the blaze, while the other half protected surrounding buildings.

Dunedin police told NZPA the street was still cordoned off this morning and police would “keep the crowds away” today.

There was nothing yet to indicate the fire was suspicious, a police spokesman said.

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