Crews contain large scrub fire

Firefighters have contained a large scrub fire north of Auckland despite having to contend with steep terrain and limited water supplies.

But rural fire crews were still hard at work tonight after three more scrub fires broke out around the North Island.

Principal rural fire officer Bryan Cartelle said the blaze near a commercial pine forest in Dome Valley, about 10km north of Warkworth, had not grown beyond the 71-hectare it had spread to this morning.

That was despite challenging conditions including water supply issues and difficult terrain.

"It's steep terrain and it's cutover forestry so it's hard to work, but we've got some good operators in there and they're making some good headroads into it."

The priority had been to get firebreaks in place to stop the fire from spreading any further.

Mr Cartelle said most of the firebreaks were in place by tonight, but those which needed to be cut by hand would be put in tomorrow.

Two helicopters were earlier called in to drop water onto hotspots, while two more had been laying chemical retardant lines.

Mr Cartelle said a team of 43 volunteer rural firefighters, including some from Auckland and Whangarei, were fighting the fire and incident management personnel had been called in from Christchurch.

Several water tankers were also supporting the fire operation, which could delay residential water deliveries in the Matakana area.

No properties were in danger and smoke which had last night drifted over State Highway 1 was now minimal.

The cause of the blaze was not yet known but northern fire communications spokesman Jaron Phillips said it may have been started by skeet shooters seen in the area last night.

Last night a helicopter pilot fighting the fire needed medical treatment for ash in his eyes. He was grounded so he could be treated by St John Ambulance officers.

A skeleton crew would monitor the fire overnight.

Meanwhile, several more scrub fires have broken out across the North Island.

A fire at Ahipara, at the southern end of 90 Mile Beach in Northland, was burning on a small area of scrub near the rivermouth.

Mr Phillips said firefighters were setting up a portable pump from the river.

Another fire near Rawene, south of the Hokianga Harbour, had burnt through 2500sq m of scrub and spread up a hill.

"It's jumped the road, so the fire is on both sides of the road."

Fire crews were battling the blaze with the help of a water tanker.

And in the Bay of Plenty, firefighters were tackling a 4500sq m scrub fire at Opitoki.

The fire was being driven by the wind so a helicopter had been scrambled to the area.


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