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Newtown fire – Police treating fire as suspicious

Wednesday 17 May 2023, 2:49PM

By New Zealand Police

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WELLINGTON CITY

To be attributed to Inspector Dion Bennett, Acting Wellington District Commander:

The scene of the Loafers Lodge fire has now been handed over to Police by Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ).

While we will continue to work closely with FENZ and other partners, Police are now the lead agency in relation to the fire investigation, and we can confirm that we are treating the fire as suspicious.

Following a health and safety assessment, officers hope to enter the building this afternoon to begin a scene examination.

This scene examination will be an extensive and methodical process, and we expect it to take some time – likely several days.

Alongside the scene examination, officers will be working to locate and recover those who lost their lives in the fire.

We know there are many people waiting for news of family and friends – including the residents who escaped the fire and are keenly waiting for news of their fellow tenants.

I again want to provide the reassurance that we have a large number of officers working on this investigation, with the aim of providing them the answers they need as quickly as possible.

Police have confirmed that there was a couch fire at Loafers Lodge at around 10.30pm on Monday night, prior to the fatal fire which occurred around two hours later.

The couch fire was not reported to emergency services at the time.

As part of our enquiries, we will be seeking to confirm any link between that couch fire and the subsequent fatal fire.

A number of officers spent the day at Newtown Park yesterday, speaking to evacuated residents, however we are aware that there may be residents who were evacuated from Loafers Lodge who went to other locations following the fire, and haven’t been at Newtown Park.

We want to speak to those residents, along with anyone else who may have information which could assist our enquiries.

We ask that people get in touch with us via 105, referencing Operation Rose.

Contact can also be made online at https://www.police.govt.nz/use-105#online-report-options – please select the form “Something Else”.