Rail fire closes highway

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 08:13 15/01/2014
Fire
Derek Flynn

Rural Fire Services attend a blaze adjacent to the State Highway 1 overbridge in Seddon

Traffic jam
Derek Flynn
The road was closed for some time and traffic was backed up for over a kilometre in both directions
Fire
Derek Flynn
Awatere and Blenheim Rural Fire forces were at the scene for more than three hours

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A scrub fire that caused traffic to back-up for one kilometre along State Highway 1 in Seddon yesterday was caused by a rail crew doing track maintenance.

Marlborough deputy rural fire officer John Foley said fires caused by KiwiRail staff working on the tracks were an ongoing issue. Last year, a KiwiRail works crew doing maintenance on the track caused two scrub fires in Tuamarina, north of Blenheim. The fires, in March and April, started when a spark ignited a dry grassy area.

Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority would be talking to KiwiRail management about the problem, Mr Foley said.

"It happens every year when it's dry. There has to be a better time for them to be doing it."

Maintenance crews also needed to be better prepared in case a fire did start, he said.

Crew cutting railway line started yesterday's fire near the south side of the Seddon overbridge just after 11am. It spread about a hectare up a bank.

Seddon volunteer firefighters and crews from the Awatere and Blenheim Rural Fire forces were at the scene for more than three hours containing the fire and dampening down hotspots.

An easterly breeze prevented the fire from spreading further.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said a nearby crew equipped with firefighting resources helped put the fire out. It was the third time a fire had been caused by a KiwiRail crew working on the tracks since April last year, she said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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