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The Nelson Photo News



Arsonist Causes £68,000 Damage To City Buildings

Detailed accounts of the fire and the Magistrate's Court case at which the youth was convicted, have been adequately covered by the daily newspapers. Praise has been lavished on the army of volunteer workers who helped empty premises of stock and on the fire brigade, whose hard work prevented a general conflagration in the heart of Nelson. In adding our congratulations to all these people on the way they pitched in, we would like to extend those congratulations to Detective-Sergeant A. W. Hedwig and Detective W. J. G. Carr whose vigilance and speedy investigations brought a criminal to justice and possibly prevented further acts of arson with a consequent loss of property and even life.

The picture on this page was taken by C. J. Cherz from Britannia Heights at the height of the blaze in the Valet Dry Cleaners.


The Trafalgar Street premises of Valet Dry Cleaners and the studios of Station 2XN were gutted and the building of Keith Walker Ltd severely damaged by a fire lit by a Christchurch youth of 17, on the evening of Sunday, December 5. This irresponsible act caused damage estimated at £42,170. But not content with causing Nelson's worst fire this century, this same youth next evening again used petrol to set alight the storeroom of Harley and Co, Bridge Street, and as a result the fire spread to premises occupied by the Bassinette and Spicers Home Appliance Centre, causing a further £25,997 worth of damage to buildings and stock. For these acts the youth was imprisoned for three years.



The scene in Trafalgar Street at the height of the blaze. At this stage the fire was confined to the dry cleaning premises.


On the night of the fire three youth: broke into the dry cleaners through : back door and looked for money. Upon leaving it was decided to burn down the building to erase fingerprints and petrol was bought to start the blaze. When the fire was lit the youth who bought the petrol took the can back to the service station to get his refund on it then assisted to remove property from the buildings and to help the firemen with the hoses.

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firemen play water on the rear of the premises, already a twisted mass of corrugated iron.


Valet manager, Kevin Peychers, gets first aid treatment for a hand injury sustained while he was making salvage attempts inside the building.


Frocks and fittings are rushed from Hilarys and left in the street as an ever-growing crowd watches the fire fighting.



A refrigerator is taken from Keith Walkers by volunteers


Valuable technical equipment in 2XN was destroyed, and the job of salvaging what was left, being carried out here by technician Bert Pearce, was a formidable one.


Senior announcer, Ken Pritchard, makes the last broadcast from the shambles which was the main studio.


A start was made immediately on demolishing the main part of the dry cleaning premises (part of the building has been retained in the meantime).



The scene in Bridge Street as the blaze behind Harley's main shop was being fought.


A human chain helped empty the Bassinette of stock


The aftermath of the fire in Harley's store - carpeting, mattreses, and bedding and furniture litter the ground behind the main shop.