A packaging company is alleged to have ignored fire service warnings that the Hastings plant could be engulfed in fire for the third time in a year.
Less than three months later an even bigger blaze broke out at Hawk Packaging, destroying the plant, damaging neighbouring businesses and threatening nearby homes.
Neighbouring company ENZA Foods is taking legal action against Hawk Packaging to recover insurance costs from the January 17 fire.
Hawk Packaging director Tim Combs faces two charges of breaching the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. Two charges have also been laid against the company.
Mr Combs is defending the charges in the Hastings District Court this week.
Prosecutor Neil Beadle said Mr Combs and the company failed to protect itself from the ”obvious” fire risk that went with storing large amounts of paper products.
Hawk Packaging manufactured egg cartons and fruit trays from waste paper.
The Fire Service had previously identified the Tomoana Rd factory as a high fire risk and outlined concerns to the company director about how the paper products were stored.
The plant had been struck by two fires in the year before the January blaze.
A fire broke out in February 2011 when a piece of waste paper caught fire in a dryer.
A second blaze in October destroyed part of the roof and some of the fire fighting equipment in the paper room.
Despite this, Mr Combs continued to store product three pallets high against the outside wall of the paper room, and never replaced the damaged fire hoses.
On January 17, 2012, fire crews from as far afield as Dannevirke and Palmerston North tended the blaze, with many saying it was the biggest they had fought in Hawke’s Bay.
No-one was injured but the factory burned to the ground, nearby houses were evacuated and ash covered Hastings.
Mr Beadle said the company took inadequate precautions to protect itself from a fire and prevent it from spreading to neighbouring businesses.
Rejected product, which often came out of the machines hot, should have been isolated from flammable material and the damaged fire hoses should have been replaced, Mr Beadle said.
”It’s just unacceptable.”
The hearing is expected to last five days.