'Suspicious' scrub fire threatens houses

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 07:57 15/01/2014
Fire
TOM BOOTH

SMOKE SIGNAL: Flames and smoke were seen in scrub above the Railway Reserve as a scrub fire took hold in Nelson on Tuesday afternoon.

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A potentially serious scrub fire in Nelson south which threatened several houses was stopped before it got out of hand in extreme wind conditions, a senior Nelson firefighter said.

Multiple emergency calls were made to the fire service when flames and smoke were seen in scrub above the Railway Reserve at a point below Thompson Tce about 2.30pm yesterday.

Senior station officer Chris Perkins of Nelson said the fire, which burnt an area about 50 square metres and came close to several houses, was "extremely suspicious".

"There are no obvious signs of what caused it but it's suspicious because it was in protected, dense scrub in that area," Mr Perkins said.

Residents in Thompson Tce said they saw "a bunch of kids running away" shortly before their homes were filled with smoke.

Leslie Whitaker said she thought at first someone was burning rubbish then realised that was not possible.

Sandra Mitchell said she heard the sirens then saw the smoke, and then some young people running away down the reserve.

"It's just silly, but they [fire brigade] got on to it before any major damage was done," Ms Whitaker said.

Mr Perkins said access to the fire was particularly difficult. One appliance went to Thompson Tce and another to Tipahi St below the point where the Railway Reserve can be accessed.

"The fire got to within about 100 metres of some houses but in the wind we had it can spread very quickly.

"This sort of thing is a threat to people's houses, property and to lives.

"If people realised the consequences they wouldn't do it," Mr Perkins said.

He said despite the difficulty in getting to the fire, it was put out quickly. Firefighters used forestry packs to get access to it, while the public helped with traffic problems on Tipahi St.

"Help from the public was great," Mr Perkins said.

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