Garlic bread blaze sparks $4.5m court battle
Food giant George Weston is being sued for $4.5 million over a fire at its Brisbane's garlic bread factory that suffered extensive damage when a fire protection system was disabled.
The building's landlord, the Stainer Family Trust, is suing the Sydney-based maker of Tip Top Bread and Golden Crumpets after the fire broke out at the Capalaba factory in 2017.
The blaze burnt for several hours and saw fire fighters shovel about nine cubic metres of burning garlic bread out of the cold room area of the factory to get to the seat of the fire.
In a statement of claim lodged in the Supreme Court in Brisbane, the Stainer family said it took more than an hour for the fire services to respond to the blaze because the fire protection system had been disabled.
Stainer said the factory, known as the Australian Garlic Bread Co, was fitted with a sophisticated smoke detection system that included an automatic alarm activation with a direct connection to the Queensland Fire Emergency Services.
The claim states that even though the fire started at approximately 1am on September 28 the fire services were not notified until 2.05am because the detection system had been disabled in breach of fire regulations.
"By this time, the fire had taken hold of the premises and caused significant damage, with additional damage caused by water used to extinguish the fire," the claim states.
The Stainer family said it had not been informed by George Weston that it had adopted the practice of disabling various zones of the fire detection system to carry out cleaning.
They claim that the day before the fire, the company caused the fire detection system to be isolated or deactivated in two zones of the factory with the result that they were unable to detect smoke and provide automatic notifications to the fire services.
George Weston was later fined $176,610 after it pleaded guilty to 28 charges of failing to maintain the fire safety system to an acceptable standard.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services manager of compliance and prosecution Mark Halverson said at the time that thankfully no one was inside the building when the fire broke out as it could have had potentially fatal consequences.
The Stainer family is seeking damages of $4.54 million to cover reconstruction as well as an undetermined amount to cover loss of rental.
George Weston has yet to file a defence and declined to comment when contacted by The Courier-Mail.
Originally published as Garlic bread blaze sparks $4.5m court battle