Cecil Peak Fire burns itself out

A helicopter is used to dump water  at the base of Cecil Peak yesterday where a fire had raged...
A helicopter is used to dump water at the base of Cecil Peak yesterday where a fire had raged the night before. Photo by DOC.
Cecil Peak Station manager Philip Rive is thankful the fire which he estimated burnt up to 10ha on the lower slopes of the peak on Sunday night did not occur two weeks ago when the weather was warmer.

If it had, Mr Rive said the fire ''would have spread right up that hill''.

''We're pretty lucky.''

The land is used for grazing but all stock was shifted in January. He was hopeful it would recover quickly with fertiliser and seed.

Senior Constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, yesterday said two men who were seen speeding away in a small boat after the fire began were spoken to.

''They denied any involvement,'' Snr Const Blackford said.

Mr Rive said ''mistakes and accidents do happen''.

His message to anyone in an accidental fire was ''you're better off making a call [for help] straight away''.

''If we had have been half an hour earlier we could have had it out.''

Instead, the remote fire, which began after 8pm, was deemed too dangerous for fire crews to fight in the dark and was left to burn into the night.

It was still burning at 10pm.

However, apart from hot spots yesterday morning, the fire had burnt itself out. Mr Rive was grateful for the effect of the dew on the ground.

''That's what really stopped it.''

He said a marginal strip of land at the base of Cecil Peak, which was administered by the Department of Conservation, was a popular picnic spot.

''It's great to see people being able to use and enjoy that.''

He was ''sure the fire wasn't deliberately lit''.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key unveiled a high-altitude golf green on Cecil Peak, but a statement from Over the Top Golf said the par-3 golf hole was ''well above'' the fire.

Two rural fire crews from the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Doc, supported by two helicopters, finished dampening down hot spots yesterday.

Doc incident controller Mark Mawhinney said the area would continue to be monitored.

Warm weather is forecast to continue for several days.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are continuing.

Both Doc and the council issued a reminder that a total fire ban is in place across the Queenstown Lakes District, which effectively rules out all open campfires.

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