Mopping up after Maniototo fire contained

A fire which spread across 300ha buffeted by strong winds in the Maniototo is now under control.

The fire broke out near the township of Waipiata about 6pm yesterday, causing the evacuation of about 15 people and the closure of State Highway 87 between Kyeburn and Hyde, and the popular Otago Central Rail Trail cycling track.

The fire spread to about 300 hectares today before eight helicopters and dozens of fire crews were able to contain it this afternoon.

No homes or livestock were harmed.

In a statement this evening Fire and Emergency NZ said the fire was controlled and contained, and all people had been able to return to their homes by 6pm.

State Highway 87 has reopened and the rail trail would be open again tomorrow morning.

Deputy principal rural fire officer Mike Harrison said crews would be at the scene mopping up this evening, with a monitoring crew on site overnight.

Mr Harrison said it had the potential to be a much more significant fire.

A hillside ablaze during the Kokonga fire. Photo: Supplied
A hillside ablaze during the Kokonga fire. Photo: Supplied
He said the community had been great, delivering more food to the fire crews than they know what to do with.

About 10mm of rain was also expected overnight, with some starting to fall already at 5pm.

Earlier this afternoon flames remained visible on a scorched hillside near Kokanga, and helicopters with monsoon buckets continued to make regular passes.

Crews had been fighting two fires in the area since last night, believed to have been caused by lightning strikes in tinder-dry conditions. 

The main one, near Waipiata-Kokonga Rd, started about 6pm, while a smaller one on Four Mile Rd near Hyde had been contained.

Police officers from throughout Otago were sent to Ranfurly to bolster local staff earlier today.

Fire and Emergency believes lightning strikes in tinder-dry conditions ignited the fire. Photo:...
Fire and Emergency believes lightning strikes in tinder-dry conditions ignited the fire. Photo: supplied
Incident controller Mike Harrison, the deputy principal rural fire officer for Waitaki, said the main fire spread to 300ha as strong winds fanned the flames.

Northwesterly winds of between 50kmh and 60kmh, with gusts of up to 80kmh, were making fighting the blaze difficult and it was a matter of "holding on" until a southerly - forecast to hit at 7pm - came through bringing rain and cooler temperatures, he said.

Mr Harrison praised the work of the helicopter pilots, saying they were doing an "amazing job".

Mr Harrison said no further buildings were being evacuated and none were under threat.

One of the houses evacuated  "came pretty close" to being engulfed last night, but crews on the ground did a "great" job to contain that, Mr Harrison said.

"I can't say enough about the work those guys are doing."

Burnt hills can be seen in the distance from the command centre just off Kokonga Rd. Photo:...
Burnt hills can be seen in the distance from the command centre just off Kokonga Rd. Photo: George Block
Police have notified all people between Waipiata and Hyde to be prepared to evacuate immediately if required.

Kokonga Lodge owner Alexis Siemans said earlier reports that evacuated residents were moved there last night were incorrect.

In fact, she and 10 guests had to go to Hyde School Accommodation and Eatery in Hyde.

The dark patch on the hills shows were the fire raged overnight. Photo: George Block
The dark patch on the hills shows were the fire raged overnight. Photo: George Block

Ms Siemans said she had since been told she could return to the lodge, but remained "on notice" for evacuation should the situation change.

She was thankful to the owners of Hyde School Accommodation and Eatery for allowing her and her guests to stay and said there had been "great neighbourhood support".

Map: Fenz
Map: Fenz
LIGHTNING STRIKES 

Up to 30 lighting strikes were recorded in the area between 5.30pm and 6.30pm yesterday.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokeswoman Jill Higginson said crews were called to the scrub fire on Waipiata-Kokonga Rd just after 6pm. It was thought a passing lightning storm sparked the fire, she said.

Crews from the Ranfurly and Naseby Volunteer Fire Brigades were involved, with tankers from Palmerston, Middlemarch and Wakari.

Waipiata Country Hotel owner Mark Button said smoke could be seen from the Waipiata township but it was on the Kokonga side of the Taieri River.

A thunderstorm passed through the area about 6pm and Mr Button thought it had sparked the two separate fires.

Ten helicopters are involved in fighting a Central Otago blaze which spread to cover 280ha...
Ten helicopters are involved in fighting a Central Otago blaze which spread to cover 280ha overnight. Photo: Supplied

 - additional reporting RNZ

Add a Comment

 

 

Advertisement

postanote_header_620_x_80.png

postanote_620_x_25.jpg