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Risk of fire remains high after Kina blaze

SARAH DUNN AND SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 10:06 23/01/2014
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

ON THE SCENE: A firefighter at the blaze on the Kina Peninsula on Friday afternoon.

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A repeat of last week's winds will strip the recent rain's moisture from pasture and pines, and send the fire danger level soaring again.

The region's rural firefighters dealt with eight fires last Friday, the biggest of which was at Kina, as strong winds tore through Tasman.

Waimea Rural Fire Authority operations manager Doug Ashford said the fires were mainly wind-driven and ignited by trees falling over power lines or old fires re-kindling.

The fires occurred between Cable Bay, Ngatimoti and Motueka, he said.

Sunday and Monday's intermittent rain had taken the sting out of the fire risk but had not recharged the soil moisture or helped the dried vegetation.

"And we have a long way to go before the end of summer and forecasters are predicting it will only get hotter and drier."

The largest was at Kina where quick action prevented a fire started by a fallen power line from spreading to houses.

Treescape worker Paul Angus said he was driving out to the peninsula to attend to about seven trees that had fallen over in the wind when he smelled smoke.

When they got out there he saw sparks in the trees.

When he realised a fire had started, the crew got out there as quickly as possible.

Two helicopters carrying monsoon buckets, rural and fire service crews from Brightwater, Tasman, Mapua and Appleby fought the blaze. Waimea Rural Fire Authority principal fire officer Ian Reade said the fire spread up to three hectares along the beach before crews stopped it.

Crews worked from the eastern to the western side in attempt to contain the fire, which got very close to a property.

"Residents were getting really nervous," he said.

"When you get high winds, high temperatures and low humidity together, that's what makes fires go. That's when you start getting conditions like Australia."

It was a very risky time of year and the public had to be very vigilant and take precautions in these windy conditions, he said.

The rural fire team and firefighters from forestry teams continued to "mop up" flare-ups and left the site after the weekend's rain.

Network Tasman chief executive Wayne Mackey said power had automatically been cut as soon as the trees hit the power line, although this did not prevent a grass fire.

He said the power cut out after midday, affecting 243 consumers in Tasman and Kina.

A tree also fell through lines in the Brooklyn Valley shortly after noon on Friday, cutting supply to 657 consumers in Brooklyn, Little Sydney, Dehra Doon and the Takaka Hill for a couple of hours.

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- Nelson

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