Ground, air fight quells 80ha fire

Firefighters spray water on one section of a  the grass fire near Tarras yesterday.Photos by...
Firefighters spray water on one section of a the grass fire near Tarras yesterday.Photos by Leith Huffadine and Toby Wallis, Alpine Helicopters
An aerial view of the fire.
An aerial view of the fire.

Helicopters carrying monsoon buckets buzzed above blackened paddocks as crews fought a sprawling grass fire in the Ardgour Valley, near Tarras, yesterday afternoon.

On the ground, rural and urban volunteer firefighters called in from across Central Otago and the Southern Lakes toiled to quell the blaze which burned across about 80ha of land.

At the operation's peak, 50 firefighters, nine appliances, two tankers and three helicopters were working to control the fire.

Two Department of Conservation fire crews also helped fight the blaze.

During the fire, a large plume of smoke was visible from State Highway 8.

Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Stephanie Rotarangi said multiple fire fronts made it challenging to fight.''

It was a very fast-moving fire, which is what we would expect in that country at this time of year.''

We had good access to water, which really helped.''

The first crew arrived at the fire, on Ardgour Station, about 1.30pm.

Most of the material burned was dry grass, but in the hill country tussock and matagouri fuelled the blaze.

A swath of blackened land and smouldering hotspots stretching from the valley floor almost to the ridge line was left behind.

Dr Rotarangi said about 8pm last night the fire was contained. It was no longer spreading but still had to be put out.

Crews were arriving to take over for the night shift and the ''mop up'', and more crews would be on site today, she said.

Initial investigations suggested the fire started accidentally and had been caused by farming operations.

Dr Rotarangi praised the fire crews, who came from as far away as Makarora and Alexandra, for their efforts and thanked the person who alerted emergency services.

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