Vegetation fire threatens forestry block
GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
A fire fanned by 30-35 knot winds and threatening a forestry block between Cromwell and Luggate yesterday was brought under control nearly eight hours after it started.
The 15-hectare fire spread amongst slashed vegetation on the Luggate-Tarras Rd.
About 3.30pm yesterday the responsibility for tackling the blaze, which started around 11am, was handed over to the Department of Conservation.
New Zealand Fire Service crews, Central Otago District Council rural firefighters and two helicopters were also stood down.
DOC spokeswoman Annette Grieve said the two department crews at the scene pulled out at 8pm.
The fire was under control but the area of the blaze would be monitored by the landowner during the night, Mrs Grieve said.
One of the fire crews worked along the right fire flank while the second crew dampened hotspots.
Mrs Grieve said the department would investigate the blaze in the coming weeks.
At this time, there was no definite cause for the fire but there had been an ongoing burn-off in the area, she said.
Witness and photographer Andy Woods said the winds were so high he could hardly hold his camera steady.
Earlier, six fire trucks from Luggate, Tarras, Wanaka and Cromwell were supported by Central Otago Rural Fire water tankers.
Two helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets were used to fight the fire.
The blaze appeared to have spread from mounded piles of slashed vegetation on private farm land at the corner of State Highway 8A and Jolly Rd, about mid-way between Cromwell and Luggate, he said.
Diggers were used to break up the piles of burning debris and dirt was heaped on top of each pile to damp down the fire source, but by that stage breakaway fires had already spread, Mr Woods said.
Strong winds hit Central Otago and the Southern Lakes yesterday.
Around midday a pine tree fell across State Highway 6A in the Kawarau Gorge and a 30-metre yacht slipped its moorings in the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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