A CINEMATOGRAPHER  who worked on Sir Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, Alex Funke, fears a couple of Oscar awards have been lost in a blaze near Wellington Airport.

"Where that smoke right there is," he said, pointing to the unit most damaged.

The awards were for the Two Towers and Return of the King.

Mr Funke believed the Academy would be able to replace the awards.

"But it's not quite the same thing is it."

He said there were also some BAFTA awards in the unit.

"But more important is all my camera equipment that was in there."

He did not realise the units did not have sprinklers until today.

Mr Funke didn't know how much the items were worth but "a great deal of personal value".

"It's very upsetting, you put stuff in a storeroom and you say 'Well, it's safe, nobody's going to steal it, it's never going to burn down' - well obviously next time put it in a place with sprinklers."

Alex Funke. Photo / APNZ
Alex Funke. Photo / APNZ

Huge fire near New Zealand airport

A FIRE near Wellington Airport this morning has been classified at the most extreme end of the Fire Service's response scale.

Central fire communications shift manager Jan Wills said the fire broke out at the Kiwi Self Storage facility in Kilbirnie's Rongotai Rd.

The first calls about the fire were received at 12.45am this morning.

Wellington Fire Service assistant area commander David Key told Radio New Zealand that the fire had been contained to the building of origin.

"We've got crews working inside just going from storage unit to storage unit - just opening them up and trying to extinguish the fires.

"As you could imagine it's a bit of a rabbit warren inside - we're having a few access difficulties but we're slowly getting on top of it."

"Unfortunately for some people, their belongings will be destroyed."

Fire fighters had gone door-to-door in the surrounding area, asking residents to stay inside, close their windows and turn off their air conditioning unity, Mr Key said.

One man who owned items in the storage unit watched as firefighters drenched the area.

He did not want to speak with media.

Meanwhile, planes continue to leave the airport, flying past the dense smoke still billowing from the unit.

A Wellington Airport spokeswoman said the fire had not affected flights.

Dozens of firefighters remain at the site to stay on top of the dying fire.

The fire was classified as "fifth alarm" - the highest end of the response scale, due to the strength of the fire and its location, Ms Wills said.

The origin of the blaze and how it had spread so quickly was unknown.

There were no reports of anyone being in the building. However, a fire fighter had been treated for minor heat exhaustion, Ms Wills said.



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