The Department of Conservation is interviewing a man in
connection with a fire that burnt more than 100ha of forest
and tussock land high up in the Mt Aspiring National Park.
The fire in the East Matukituki Valley, near Hester Penney
Creek, was reported to the Department of Conservation at
7.30pm on Monday.
Doc's conservation services manager in Wanaka, Chris Sydney,
told the Otago Daily Times at 2pm yesterday the fire
was ''contained and controlled'' and ground crews and three
helicopters had been stood down.
One helicopter remained on site for fire-fighting purposes,
and ''mopping up work'' would still need to be done over the
next few days.
The fire's ''point of origin'' appeared to be on the East
Mr Sydney said a helicopter made a sweep of the valley floor
in search of trampers but found no-one. Late yesterday
afternoon, a Doc spokesman confirmed a man was being
Mr Sydney said conditions in the park were very dry which
allowed the fire to move ''very rapidly''.
''The key message is for people in the back country to be
extremely careful when conditions are as dry as they are.''
A fire investigator was already on the scene, looking into
the cause, and Mr Sydney said the department was keen to
speak to anyone who had witnessed the fire.
The fire was on steep, remote terrain at an altitude of about
800m-900m and at one point yesterday extended for 800m.
The left flank burnt through alpine tussock, known as
turpentine shrub, and snow tussock, and the right flank burnt
''significant stands'' of beech forest.
''All the scrub and tussock will have been consumed and the
fire has made it into the beech forest but it will be burning
along the forest floor, not through the crown of the trees.
''And that's where a lot of our mop-up will happen - in
underneath the beech trees.''
Big flames caused turbulence that made helicopter flying
difficult, and Mr Sydney said the distance helicopter
operators had to lift monsoon buckets, from the Matukituki
River, was another difficulty.
Mr Sydney said it was the first fire in the park for at least
eight or nine years.