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Pouto reserve ablaze

PETRICE TARRANT
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013
Fire

RESERVE DESTROYED: The blaze aftermath as captured on camera by a firefighter.

Fire
COOL DOWN: The fire at Pouto was too dangerous to send ground crews in so four helicopters were brought in to help extinguish the fast-spreading blaze.

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The raging inferno at Pouto left surrounding residents unharmed but bush creatures caught in the fire have had their homes completely destroyed.

Flames tore through 150 hectares of native scrub and wetland in the Department of Conservation-managed Punahaere Creek reserve as well as 50 hectares of pine trees in a privately owned plantation alongside.

Ninety firefighters and four helicopters with monsoon buckets fought the blaze over three days before it was contained.

DOC says there is evidence the habitats of creatures living in the reserve have been destroyed.

DOC's Kauri Coast community relations manager Karen Joyce-Paki says amongst the dwellers were shore birds and green geckos.

She says the fire has incinerated about 80 per cent of the reserve, which will take a couple of years to restore.

"For now it's a devastating sight for conservation as a whole, it's a big setback," she says.

She says the fire started near the Punahaere Creek bridge but an investigation into how it started is still being conducted. Police are treating it as suspicious.

Detective Sergeant Jonathan Tier urges people with any information about movement in that area to come forward.

"Fires don't start themselves generally."

The Pouto community played a huge role during the blaze - even bringing baking out to those battling the fire.

Helicopters were brought in to extinguish the flames because the steep land made it too dangerous to send in ground crews, Mrs Joyce-Paki says.

An assessment will be done to evaluate the efficiency and total cost of the response.

The fire started on DOC land so the department will initially have to foot the bill. But "all fires on DOC land are covered under a government fund", she says.

Kaipara fire crews also attended two fires at Kai Iwi Lakes, two at Pouto Rd, one at Kelly's Bay, one at Waikara and one fire at Aranga last week.

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- Dargaville News

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