Massive Wanaka blaze mostly contained

A massive fire on the shores of Lake Wanaka, which has burnt through hundreds of hectares of farmland and native bush, is mostly under control, but hot, dry weather forecast for the next week means there are still concerns it could flare up again.

Firefighters will control and monitor the perimeter of the 280ha Glendhu Bluffs fire for the rest of this week, while Aurora Energy still has 35 remote customers to reconnect to the grid.

The blaze is believed to have started between Wanaka Mt Aspiring Rd and Emerald Bay.

The fire jumped the road, burned a Department of Conservation reserve and destroyed seven power poles, knocking out power to 78 customers on Sunday.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) incident controller Jason Sarich, of Dunedin, said the cause was not yet known.

There appeared to be no let-up in the hot, dry conditions this week and Mr Sarich cautioned people to check the weather before taking part in outdoor activities.

Looking east towards Emerald Bay above the site of the 280ha Glendhu Bluffs fire.
Looking east towards Emerald Bay above the site of the 280ha Glendhu Bluffs fire.
He also asked people to keep their camera drones out of the air and recommended rock climbers stay away from the Hospital Flat rock climbing area for now.

A light breeze meant conditions were favourable to contain the fire yesterday.

But firefighters were working in extremely hot conditions to control the perimeter and dampen hot spots.

He hoped most would finish work about 6pm but a crew would monitor the situation overnight.

 

An aerial photo reveals the extent of the fire which burned a Department of Conservation reserve...
An aerial photo reveals the extent of the fire which burned a Department of Conservation reserve and almost reached the Glendhu Bay Bike Park. PHOTOS: MARJORIE COOK

Today, firefighters would make sure the perimeter was tightly contained.

The fire has extended across parts of Glendhu Bay Station, owned by the McRae family, as well as parts of the Parkins Bay Golf Course project, owned by John Darby.

It almost reached the Glendhu Bay Bike Park, which Mr McRae said was evacuated as a precaution on Sunday.

"It has all burned to the top, to the skyline ... It has burned a fairly big chunk of us [the farm] but it didn’t hurt the bike park," he said.

Operations manager Mark Mawhinney, of Queenstown, said it was fortunate winds on Sunday night had not blown the fire towards those homes and properties.

Taking a breather from fighting the fire are Department of Conservation firefighters (from left)...
Taking a breather from fighting the fire are Department of Conservation firefighters (from left) Sonya Sawyers, John Keene, Matt Hellman and Campbell Harris.

 

Yesterday, eight ground crews worked on the containment lines. They included two Department of Conservation crews and four Fenz volunteer crews from Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes.

Three helicopters were also in the air yesterday, two with monsoon buckets and a third transporting firefighters to hard to access areas.

Alpine Helicopters pilot Bayden Neustroski said helicopters had been filling buckets from Diamond Lake as well as Lake Wanaka.

He worked on the fire on Sunday until 10pm and was back on deck yesterday to continue dumping water on hot spots.

Wanaka Mt Aspiring Rd was reopened yesterday for residents needing to access their properties but Mr Sarich asked the general public to stay away from the area.

Aurora Energy communications and engagement manager Lisa Gloag said power had been restored to 43 customers on Sunday night and generators were being organised for affected customers on the Mt Aspiring side of the fire.

An equipment inspection found seven power poles needed to be replaced before permanent power could be restored, Ms Gloag said.

Aurora Energy staff would contact their customers still without power to provide an update. More information is on its website and social media pages.

marjorie.cook@odt.co.nz

 

 

 

 

 

 

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