Shades of Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now were evident
on the Taieri yesterday, when a helicopter dropped a
napalm-like chemical as part of a controlled burn.
The large fire near Allanton attracted dozens of spectators
and prompted concerned calls to the Fire Service, as a dark
cloud of smoke moved over Dunedin yesterday afternoon.
Helicopters Otago managing director Graeme Gale said the
helicopter was dropping a gel-like substance - similar to
napalm - which ignites when dropped on the ground.
The target of the burn-off was gorse previously sprayed by a
farmer on a property off State Highway 1, just south of
Mr Gale said the result was the gorse burnt quickly and
cleanly under controlled conditions, and the burn also
eradicated pests such as rats, mice and possums.
"The farmer can then get some productive land back."
Much planning went into such burn-offs, and pilots took the
utmost safety precautions, he said.
"There is always a risk factor that it can get outside the
burn area, but if it is controlled and you understand fire
behaviour it is pretty predictable."
Fire Service communications spokesman Karl Patterson said the
fire attracted a large number of onlookers, and also prompted
five calls from residents.
"We also notified police because it was proving to be a bit
of traffic hazard."
Several readers contacted the Otago Daily Times to
report fine ash falling around the city, several initially
mistaking it for snow.