Wanaka firefighters had luck on their side when a fire
broke out near the top of Little Mt Iron early yesterday.
Officer-in-charge station officer Tony Wellman said when they
first arrived, just after 1am, the fire appeared to have the
potential to become a major blaze.
''It was a bit scary when we first got there. It looked like
it could take off.''
A strong nor'wester was blowing the fire through tinder-dry
kanuka scrub on Department of Conservation land above the
Hidden Hills subdivision.
But as 20 firefighters with four appliances and two tankers
arrived, the wind dropped.
''We were pretty lucky, actually. It just died down as we got
And as firefighters with hose reels and beaters worked on the
steep hillside, rain began to fall.
The crews, from the Wanaka, Hawea and Luggate Volunteer Fire
Brigades, had the fire under control within about an hour.
The fire started above the highest Hidden Hills house but the
cause had not yet been established, Mr Wellman said.
There were no houses directly in the path of the fire.
Mt Iron was always a concern, he said, because of the amount
of kanuka on it, and because of difficulties with access and
the availability of water.
The brigade did a lot of practising on Mt Iron and locals
were aware of the fire danger.
With strong winds continuing yesterday and little in the way
of substantial rain, Mr Wellman considered the fire risk on
Mt Iron remained high and a fire there could travel ''super
quick'' when driven by the predominant nor'wester.
On January 4 last year, dozens of Mt Iron residents were
evacuated from their houses as 50 firefighters fought a large
vegetation fire for two hours.
It is believed fireworks started a large fire near the
Waitaki River mouth on New Year's Eve.
Glenavy and Oamaru appliances attended the fire in Fisheries
Rd, Glenavy, which was reported at 11.30pm.
''Even though it wasn't massive in size, it took quite some
time to contain and fully extinguish, with the last crews
leaving 11am [yesterday],'' Southern Fire communications
shift manager Andrew Norris said.
It took firefighters more than two hours to extinguish the
In the Waitaki Valley, a skyrocket is believed to have caused
a small vegetation fire near the Otematata Holiday Park in
The New Year's Eve fire was quickly extinguished by locals
wielding buckets. Detective Warren Duncan, of Oamaru, said
the fire could have posed a threat to tents and campers in
the area and he urged people to respect fire bans and avoid
causing fire risks, given ''tinder dry'' conditions.
It was also a busy New Year's Day for Invercargill
firefighters, who attended a suspicious fire in the kitchen
of a house in John St, Invercargill. A person at the property
was taken to Southland Hospital and treated for minor smoke
inhalation, just after 2.30am.
Early on New Year's Day, volunteers from the Ohai, Nightcaps
and Otautau Volunteer Fire Brigades battled a large blaze in
a hedge on a Western Southland property.