Wasteland arson charge, crews kept busy at weekend

A man has been charged with arson after a scrub fire was lit in wasteland on the West Coast.

Volunteers were called to the fire in dry gorse and broom in the small village of Ikamatua about 7pm on Sunday and were back yesterday after it started smouldering again. 

It was one of several outdoor fires that kept brigades on their toes throughout the West Coast over the weekend as the big dry continues.

Ikamatua Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer Karen Whitmore said its fire appliance and water tanker were sent and the Reefton appliance called as back-up.

A helicopter was also put on standby in case the blaze got away, although fortunately the wind died down.

Mrs Whitmore said the situation would have been horrifying if the fire had started on Saturday night, when the valley wind was up, as a sawmill and two homes were in the potential path of the blaze.

A 47-year-old local man appeared in Greymouth District Court  yesterday charged with arson, and was bailed to reappear on February 9.

Meanwhile, in Cobden, a Westroads digger was brought in to reach the base of a deep-seated fire in driftwood at the wave trap on Saturday morning.

Greymouth and Cobden fire volunteers were roused from their beds at 4.30am on Saturday to respond to a beach fire which had burned an area covering 20m by 80m.

Cobden Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Kirk Gillam said it was hard to tell if the fire had been deliberately lit, or was unintentional, but asked people to be very careful with outdoor fires given the current dry conditions.

On Sunday night, the Greymouth brigade dealt with another small scrub fire off Wills St which took about 10 minutes to contain.

The Hokitika Volunteer Fire Brigade was called on Sunday afternoon to a small fire in dry gorse near the Westco Lagan sawmill at Ruatapu.

The fire was believed to have started after dumped boiler ash blew into a nearby patch of gorse.

- By Helen Murdoch

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