Fire costs mount up after Coromandel blaze

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2014

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Fire season costs are mounting after a blaze tore through up to seven hectares of the Coromandel conservation estate.

The blaze began in strong winds on Friday afternoon and the cost of putting it out was still being counted, DOC spokesman Dale Tawa said.

However, he guessed the sum would exceed $30,000.

The fire sparked about 2pm near the end of Kennedy Bay Rd.

The fire service was first at the scene, but Mr Tawa took control on DOC's behalf when he arrived.

There was one helicopter in operation at the time and Mr Tawa took it out of operation for a period to get airborne and work out a plan of attack.

He said the flames covered a one hectare patch rising up a rugged hillside and there was back burning as the embers tumbled down the slope.

The road was closed and, because the blaze was close to powerlines, electricity was turned off to the Kennedy Bay settlement as a precaution.

"It was very windy and particularly turbulent at altitude in the helicopters," Mr Tawa said.

"By that stage we were getting on to about 4pm. We determined, with the amount of light we had left, that we needed more machines in the air before last light so we could at least get it contained."

Two more choppers flew in to help from Warkworth.

The choppers battled the flames until 8.30pm and by that time it was contained.

DOC and the fire service returned to the scene on Saturday morning to mop up any hot spots.

What caused the fire is as yet unknown and a fire investigator is due to analyse the point of origin.

Power lines were a possible factor.

Mr Tawa said it was "an awesome" inter-agency response.

Fire fighters are hoping the rain-laced low pressure system over the country may ease the fire danger and moisten the tinder dry conditions on the Coromandel.

The Kennedy Bay blaze comes after a fire last Monday on private land off Mill Creek Rd near Whitianga.

The landowner was facing $20,000 bill for the operation.

Principal rural fire officer for Thames Valley, Del Read, said the fire started in an area where a farm worker was labouring and warned people that farm machinery, as well as cigarette butts could easily cause a bush fire in the dry conditions.

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- Waikato

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