Serious fire scotched by swift action

Firefighters discuss plans for fully extinguishing a forestry fire near Milton after containing the estimated 12ha blaze about 9am yesterday. Photo: Richard Davison
Firefighters discuss plans for fully extinguishing a forestry fire near Milton after containing the estimated 12ha blaze about 9am yesterday. Photo: Richard Davison
The weather joined forces with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) yesterday, helping prevent a more serious fire from developing in forestry near Milton.

Firefighters were called to the incident on a mature Calder Stewart radiata pine block on Coal Gully Rd, near Milton, about 7.30am.

Brigades from Milton and Balclutha were first on the scene, and later joined by teams from Wakari, Waihola, and the Dunedin Command Unit.

Five HeliOtago helicopters also took part in extinguishing the blaze.

Thanks to the quick action of the Clutha teams, the fire had been limited to the surface and an area of 300m by 400m (12ha), Dunedin Deputy Principal Fire Officer Jason Sarich said.

The weather had also played a part, as intermittent rain showers helped douse flames and winds remained relatively light.

At the fire's peak, as many as 40 firefighters had been involved in quelling the flames, Mr Sarich said.

''Fortunately, the conditions and the admirable work of Balclutha and Milton first responders have combined to mean the trees haven't caught significantly, and a more serious incident has been averted. This is the second fire on this road recently, so our team will be investigating.''

He could not comment on whether the fire was suspicious, saying it was too early to determine a cause.

Clutha-Taieri area response manager Senior Sergeant Stan Leishman said police investigative officers were in close communication with the Fenz principal fire investigator for the incident.

Asked whether known arsonists were in the district, he declined to comment.

''We're awaiting the initial report from Fenz, but we anticipate we'll be investigating.''

He said the police wished to hear from anyone who had seen persons or vehicles in the Coal Gully Rd area around the time of the fire.

''We want people to remain alert, but nobody should be alarmed at this stage.''

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

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