Firefighters have contained a large bush fire that came
dangerously close to destroying the main power feed between
the North and South Islands.
A house and several out buildings were destroyed in the blaze
at Port Underwood, 20km east of Picton, but fire crews
managed to save a further five houses that were threatened by
the 6 hectare blaze.
Two firefighters also suffered minor injuries, one from the
Koromiko Rural Fire Force who was overcome by smoke and a
Fire Service member who bruised his ribs and a kidney when he
slipped and fell.
The fire started at 3pm yesterday when a tree came down
"There was no call of fire in the initial stages but we
dispatched two helicopters anyway, given the remoteness of
the site and the high probability that any downed power line
in 35-knot winds would cause a fire," said Marlborough
Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer
"Unfortunately, when the first aircraft got there the first
house had already been affected by fire with smoke coming out
from under the eves so we stood no chance of saving that one
but by getting aircraft in there quickly, fire crews managed
to save five other houses that were under threat."
Up to 10 residents were forced to evacuate from the area
while fire crews battled the out-of-control blaze.
The isolated location combined with strong winds and steep
terrain meant the operation was very difficult.
The fire came dangerously close to the high voltage direct
current (HVDC) inter-island link, which connects the North
and South Island's electricity networks.
"That would have been very ugly," Mr McNamara said.
This morning the fire was fully contained but crews remained
at the scene dampening down hot spots.
"We've worked very hard to save those houses and we don't
want to lose them now."
Residents had last night been told they could go back to
Mr McNamara praise the efforts of the fire crews and aircraft
operators involved in the operation.
"Without them, we would have lost at least five houses and
the main DC link would have been under threat. It was a
fantastic effort in a very remote area. Everyone did their
best for the residents out there."