Burnoff near Raglan spreads to pine plantation

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 08:54 23/01/2013
Raglan burn-off
Peter Drury/FAIRFAX NZ

Scorched earth: Burnt remains of a grass fire on the Waingaro Landing Rd.

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Firefighters battled a blaze in a pine plantation near Raglan yesterday after a burnoff went wrong, prompting a renewed warning from the district's rural fire chief.

The man responsible has also opened himself up to cost recovery for the operation.

A woman who lives on the affected property, who asked not to be named, said a middle-aged man had been clearing gorse from neighbouring Waingaro Marae on Monday when the fire began.

She said the flames started to spread at the time, but it was kept under control and believed to be out last night.

However, as she returned from Raglan yesterday morning she saw "a big cloud of smoke" in the air.

The burnoff had reignited and spread into the 60-metre-by-60m pine plantation on her property.

"Our neighbours, they had shovels and they were trying to stop it from spreading but the wind went in this way, that way, and it took off. That's the thing . . . we are on top of a hill; we just caught all the wind."

She said the man responsible came to the scene and took full responsibility.

Nobody was hurt in the blaze but there was extensive damage to farm fences.

The fire service responded to the emergency call at 10.24am and stayed for more than two hours. Fire trucks from Raglan and Te Akau responded as well as a tanker from Ngaruawahia. A helicopter was also put on standby as the blaze spread in the warm, dry, breezy conditions.

Waikato District Council principal rural fire officer Andy Baker urged people to ensure they had a permit for any burnoffs. "Just look around you as to the risks and think - is burning now the right option? Because it's so dry and if you've got pine trees around you and there's a bit of wind, is it worth it?"

Mr Baker said pine forests were particularly flammable at this time of year.

He said the fire brigade may bill the council for the callout and the council may then pursue costs from the man responsible for the original burnoff.

The costs would not be "exorbitant" but he was reluctant to guess how much.

A restricted fire season was introduced for rural areas of the Waikato district from last Thursday. Restrictions were already in place for urban areas and land managed by the Department of Conservation.

A restricted fire season requires permits to be obtained from the Waikato District Council for all fires in the open air with the exception of barbecues, hangi, brazier type fires and fires within a properly constructed incinerator fitted with a lid or mesh spark-arrestor to stop embers.

BURNOFF ADVICE

Have water available

Monitor the fire

Be sure it is out

Don't leave the fire to burn overnight

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- Waikato

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