Machinery sparks large blaze burning about 8ha

Volunteer fire crews from across the Wakatipu and beyond were called in to help fight a grass...
Volunteer fire crews from across the Wakatipu and beyond were called in to help fight a grass fire on land between Jacks Point and Lake Wakatipu, known as The Preserve, on Friday night. Photo: Tracey Roxburgh
A spark from a power harrow - similar to a rotary hoe - caused a large fire near Jacks Point on Friday night which, at its peak, was fought by 30 firefighters on the ground and three helicopters with monsoon buckets.

Urban and rural fire crews from Frankton, Queenstown, Kingston and Arrowtown were called to the fire, in an area between Jacks Point and Lake Wakatipu known as The Preserve, just before 6.45pm on Friday. They remained on site until 11pm.

Rural fire officer Jamie Cowan said about 8ha of land was burnt, but it could have been much worse.

"It was a very good save from all the resources. We had quite a lot of resources there fairly quickly but, at this time of year, given things are as dry as they are, we really aren’t taking any chances."

The fire area was assessed twice on Saturday and had not shown signs of reigniting.

"The key message to people at this time of year is you need to think about mechanical means of starting fires," Mr Cowan said.

"That fire was started by a spark. Literally, just a spark off a rock. The fire at Lake Hayes last week was started by a spark off a rock.

"What that’s telling us is that if you’re going to be doing mechanical-type things, like mowing the lawn, or a bit of chainsawing, or [using] angle grinders ...  harvesting crops, etc, you’re better to do it early in the morning before the day dries out."

Last Monday, Fire Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) imposed a total fire ban across Otago and Southland due to the extremely dry conditions and depleted soil moisture.

That meant people were not allowed to light outdoor fires of any kind or use charcoal barbecues, braziers or incinerators.

Gas barbecues were permitted, but they should be kept in a safe location, off the ground and well away from long grass or anything that could catch fire.

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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