Landowner told off after fire spreads

COLLETTE DEVLIN AND NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014
fire
FIERY SCENE: Southern Rural firefighters attended this large vegetation fire in northern Southland near Lumsden on Wednesday night.

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Rural firefighters had to remain overnight at the scene of a large vegetation fire in northern Southland after an "irresponsible" landowner lit a fire in unfavourable weather.

Southern Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Mike Grant said the large fire south of Lumsden started on Wednesday night after the landowner decided to have a burnoff.

Winds of about 50 knots were a concern for fire crews because they were spreading the fire, he said.

Crews stayed at the scene overnight and remained for most of yesterday to dampen down hotspots.

Gale-force winds and high temperatures had been forecast and, even though it rained, there was still a risk and it was not a day to light a fire, Mr Grant said.

"Even with rain, it was irresponsible to take risks and light a fire during those conditions."

Fire crews from Lumsden, Mossburn, Dipton and Athol battled to contain the fire.

Lumsden volunteer firefighter Rob Scott attended the fire, which he believed was about 900 metres by 400m.The crew created fire breaks with heavy machinery and managed to contain about 75 per cent of the fire by midnight, he said.

A fire communications spokesman said a member of the public on State Highway 6 reported about 8.30pm that smoke was rising in the distance.

The fire was believed to have started in a large area of tree trimmings between the Dipton-Castlerock road and the western side of the Oreti River, the spokesman said.

Initially, a fire engine and a tanker from Lumsden responded but the fire jumped the river so backup was called from the Mossburn volunteer fire brigade and the Dipton and Athol rural brigades.

The owners of the property could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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