Three helicopters battle Takaka fire

AIRDROP: A helicopter pours a monsoon bucket over a fire in scrubland at Upper Takaka.
AIRDROP: A helicopter pours a monsoon bucket over a fire in scrubland at Upper Takaka.

Three helicopters were used to fight a fire in East Takaka yesterday which burnt about one hectare of forestry and scrubland.

The fire started about 2.30pm on forestry land owned by Wayne Solly. It was contained by 7pm and was not suspicious.

Firefighters also attended a suspicious fire in Champion Rd, Richmond yesterday.

The dry conditions and winds have escalated the fire risk with fire authorities expressing concern and advising people to take extreme care and be aware of the danger the dry conditions pose.

Mr Solly said this morning they were working in the area where the fire started and it had possibly been caused by sparks from wire ropes.

The dry conditions and the strong wind meant the fire took off, which had been stressful. It had burnt through scrub and the bottom of about 100 trees which he said were salvageable.

Waimea Rural Fire Authority principal fire officer Ian Reade said investigators were at the site today trying to find the origin and cause of the blaze.

A fire crew was at the site dampening down and pulling out gear.

The authority's operations manager Doug Ashford said six water tankers and two fire appliances were at the fire.

The Takaka Volunteer Fire Brigade and Volunteer Rural Fire Forces from Upper Takaka, Wainui and Motueka fought the fire. The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter was one of the three helicopters used.

The fire was on extremely steep countryside and firefighters had to walk to the fire or get dropped there.

The Richmond Volunteer Fire Brigade and the Brightwater Volunteer Rural Fire Force were called to a suspicious fire at the end of Champion Rd yesterday afternoon.

It burnt an area of grass and scrubland about 10 by 20m.

Richmond Volunteer Fire Brigade senior station officer Blair Hall said the fire had been referred to police.

He said the fire, which took about 10 minutes to extinguish, was concerning, especially with the dry conditions and its suspicious nature.

"People have got to be extra careful."

Both Mr Ashford and Mr Reade said the fire risk was a concern.

While things still appeared green conditions were really dry underneath that.

"It's going to catch people out. They look at the grass and think it's green and it's not."

Mr Reade said the winds would be a strong southwest today and people should not be lighting fires and fire permits would be restricted until it rained.

People mowing or using grinding machinery in the outdoors also needed to take extreme care.

Nelson Mountain Bike president Chris Mildon said the forestry company that covered the Hira Forest had asked that mountainbikers do not go into the Sharlands area.

They were not closing the forest to riders but recommended they not ride in the area. Rain was expected for the weekend and it was hoped this would dampen things.

He said the recommendation was early and did not usually come until January.


Steps to take to mitigate vegetation fires spreading to your house:

- Clean out gutters to reduce risk of embers catching and a roof fire starting.

- Keep a 1-1.5-metre strip around the outside of the house free of flammable material.

- Keep firewood piles away from the house during summer.

- Flammable material under trees should be removed to reduce the risk of a fire laddering into the treetops.

- Wooden fences if on fire will carry flames a long length, so a fence attached to a house is a "big fuse".

- Put a break between the fence and the house.

- Ensure no flammable material is kept under the house.

Source: Waimea Rural Fire Authority

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