Fire Department Releases Report on Taj Mahal Fire

Fire Department Releases Report on Taj Mahal Fire

We can’t legally say Dave did it, but we’re not saying he didn’t either

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ)’s investigative report into the Taj Mahal fire was released last week. While the cause was officially unable to be determined, FENZ pointed to electrical devices under the counter as the likely cause of the conflagration. 

The 31-page report, viewed by Critic Te Ārohi, was released after an Official Information Act request by the Otago Daily Times. Lead by specialist fire investigator Scottie Cameron, with work beginning immediately after the fire on April 9, the report was completed on June 1, and approved on July 18.

According to the report, the fire was first reported by a 111 call from nearby residents, who heard the Taj’s fire alarm sounding around 3am. The call came through around 3:12am, with the first fire engine arriving exactly 5 minutes and 28 seconds later, at 3:17am.

The investigative report found that the fire most likely originated around the front counter. The most intense burns were in a corner of the counter where an array of electronic devices were stored, including a Menulog ordering device, a multi-box, receipt printers, tablets, modems, extension cords and power cables. According to the report: “There was a lot of wiring found in this location and it was not stored or maintained well, with some wires being bent, poorly stored in the shelving, heavy items lying across sections of wiring, and evidence of old wiring behind the counters.”

The tight reception area, bounded by a sloped roof, managed to contain the fire reasonably well – despite the intensity of the fire melting light fittings as far away as the kitchen, the restaurant was mostly affected by heat and smoke damage. In the dining area and kitchen, cardboard, paper napkins and paper bags remained miraculously untouched, with photos of the dining area showing tables neatly set up with cups and cutlery. 

The report classified the fire as an “accidental electrical event,” saying that “the intensity of the fire burning most of the electrical devices and wiring in the area of origin” meant that the exact cause of the fire could not be properly determined. However, it noted that after the initial investigation, “the Menulog device on the east counter had failed its electrical test that was conducted after the fire… This could have been a factor in the cause of the fire.”

By the way, for all you conspiracy theorists out there, the report was clear to rule out “incendiary” causes (i.e. a fire lit by someone else), due to “no signs of forced entry or other indicators”. 

This article first appeared in Issue 25, 2022.
Posted 2:34pm Sunday 2nd October 2022 by Denzel Chung.