Cause of vegetation fire remains unknown

The cause of Thursday's early morning vegetation fire on Mt Iron is still being investigated, but the Department of Conservation believes it was not deliberately lit.

The department is the legislative authority responsible for the fire because it took place within 1km of the heavily vegetated reserve on Mt Iron.

Several houses in Bevan and Islington Sts were threatened during the blaze, as well as the Cleugh house, which sits on the lower slopes of Mt Iron.

Doc deputy principal rural fire officer Trevor Mitchell, of Dunedin, said the investigation was continuing.

"There were two investigators there yesterday, looking at a few different options. It is just a matter of elimination as to what the matter was.

"But I think it will be fairly unlikely we will come up with a definite cause. The main thing is it appears it wasn't deliberately lit," Mr Mitchell said.

Concerned residents had suggested the fire could have started near an abandoned vehicle or property, but Mr Mitchell said there was no indication the fire started that way.

However, he agreed the fire appeared to have started on the northern side of the gully and had been pushed by strong wind over the top and down towards the houses.

"It always goes a bit faster with the wind. It certainly was pushed along," he said.

Mr Mitchell said Doc was pleased with the consideration people had been giving to fire risks during the new year holiday period.

Mr Mitchell reiterated a prohibited fire season beginning at midnight last night meant no camp fires or open fires were allowed at all.

The ban applies to the entire Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts.

"There has been an awful lot of growth this year and there is a lot of dry stuff about," he said.

The first fire emergency call was made at 4.15am on Thursday and dozens of residents evacuated as people went running from door to door to wake them up.

Flames were licking at the Cleugh house and came right up to fences and houses on Bevan and Islington Sts.

Firefighters were elated to have contained the fire in what they described as a very close call, while some residents shed tears of relief no property or people were harmed.

Mr Mitchell said the Fire Service and Doc had worked on fire safety plans with residents in the neighbouring Hidden Hills subdivision, where vegetation comes right up to houses and road access is so tight fire trucks cannot get to properties.

Mr Mitchell said similar help developing safety plans was available to Mt Iron residents.

 

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