New Zealand has become the first country in the world to install automated fire suppression systems to fight the spread of telegraph fires, but not all buildings will be protected.
New Zealanders have voted in a referendum to give them more say over the country’s building regulations, and have decided to move to a system where the fire codes are written on the ground.
The move to use digital fire protection systems comes after a series of telegram-bombed, high-rise buildings were torched by terrorists in Auckland and Wellington.
More than 80 buildings in Auckland were destroyed in the attacks on the weekend, while a further 15 were damaged in Wellington.
Firefighters were able to contain the blaze in just three hours.
But many residents have criticised the decision to abandon the fire-suppression systems, which have been criticised by many New Zealanders, with many calling them a form of government control.
Auckland Mayor Lianne Dalziel told Parliament the decision was a step forward in New Zealand, but said the Government should have a greater say in the fire regulations.
“We are going to go to the polls to have this decision made by the people of New Zealand,” she said.
Dalziel said the new systems would allow fire-fighting personnel to monitor the blaze from a higher position, and to use automatic fire-control systems to help fight fires.
She said it would also help fire-fighters control the spread and reduce the risk of a more destructive event.
Rioters and arsonists have been targeting high-rises in Auckland in recent months, with more than 20 buildings destroyed in a series arson attacks in the past week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand was determined to improve its fire-protection infrastructure.
“The Government will take this vote as a significant step forward to make sure our building regulations are clear and fair,” she told Parliament.
In Auckland, fire crews were forced to use water hoses to stop the blaze spreading, and a fire engine was parked outside the building, which had already been destroyed.
Police said an investigation was underway, but it was not clear if anyone was arrested.
‘A big responsibility’The new fire-regulation system will require approval from the Fire Services Commissioner, who will then have final say over building safety, which will be subject to the advice of fire and rescue teams.
Fire officials said the system would not have an immediate impact on the safety of buildings, but fire-safety experts said the decision could have a long-term effect.
“We’ve already seen in the last two years that fire-resilience in buildings has improved substantially, but there are still concerns,” Andrew Smith from the University of Canterbury said.
“I think that this is a big responsibility for the fire services, and I think that they should have greater say over their own safety, their own risk.”
Fire chiefs in Auckland said they had already seen significant improvements in safety in the wake of the attacks.
Chief Commissioner Mark Scott said a new building code would be reviewed and added that more building information was needed to help fire services respond to future fire incidents.
He said he hoped the new system would reduce the number of fire-related incidents and would also reduce the need for a second alarm for the building when the fire was at its worst.
Last year, a series fire attacks on high-end New Zealand properties in Auckland, Wellington and Auckland saw three of the six buildings targeted destroyed.