Seventy firefighters subdue blaze near forest

Firefighters from across the district contained a large vegetation blaze in the Castledowns forestry area at the weekend, but a small team remain at the site dampening down hot spots.

Southern Rural Fire Authority community and education co-ordinator Sally Chesterfield said 70 fire response personnel including eight helicopters, five ground crews and five digger operators, responded to the fire in northern Southland, which was reported by a truck driver on Friday afternoon.

The three-hectare fire was contained on Friday night but fire crews were expected to remain on site for another few days.

Invercargill station officer Colin Russell said the Invercargill crew was on the scene for about 24 hours. They were joined by crews from across northern Southland, including Athol, Lumsden and Balfour.

Principal rural fire officer for Southland, Mike Grant, said the initial response to the fire was hectic to keep it out of the surrounding commercial forest.

The fire bordered about 50,000ha of commercial forest. "If the fire wasn't stopped quickly this could have had serious impacts on commercial forestry businesses."

Southern Rural Fire Authority deputy principal rural fire officer Elton Smith said the fire had not caused financial loss in terms of commercial forest. The cause of the fire was unknown and investigations were continuing, he said.

The Southland Times