Fire crews on watch after blaze at forestry site

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 07:37 13/02/2014

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Firefighters have been at the scene of a large blaze at a forestry site near Blenheim for more than 24 hours.

Eight fire tankers and 25 firefighters battled the blaze at Northbank Rd, Onamalutu, west of Renwick, for more than 10 hours yesterday. Renwick volunteer firefighters were called shortly after 4am yesterday after a logging truck driver heading up the hill reported seeing flames.

The crew was stood down and replaced by Marlborough rural firefighters about 6am.

Marlborough Kaikoura principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara said a fire about 80 metres by 40m took hold of heavy logging and waste wood on the side of a logging site.

It was likely the blaze started by spontaneous combustion, he said.

"It's like compost heating up. It gets so hot in there, it smoulders then ignites."

Rural tankers from Linkwater, Waihopai, Blenheim and Rarangi as well as two additional large tankers, carrying 10,000 litres and 6000 litres of water, helped tackle the blaze during the day.

A crew from Canvastown Rural Fire Force monitored the spot overnight to make sure it did not reignite and would be replaced with forestry crews this morning.

Two bulldozers and a digger were used to create fire breaks and to make way for the tankers, which were able to get to the blaze, despite it being on a steep 30 degree slope.

Two Marlborough helicopters used monsoon buckets to dump water on hot spots but were stood down about 9am, Mr McNamara said.

Westerly winds coming down the Wairau River and an expected temperature of 27 degrees Celsius meant there was an increased likelihood of the fire spreading, he said.

Firefighters were putting in extra effort creating the fire breaks. "The only way to contain it is to put a cap on the site - to cover it with dirt."

He expected crews to be replaced with forestry fire response crews later in the day.

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- The Marlborough Express

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