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Hinakura inferno wipes out 25ha of pine forest

Wairarapa Times-age Article 27.02.08 by Jo Mior
Fourteen fire crews and four helicopters fought a pine forest inferno into the night yesterday that left at least 25 hectares of trees destroyed and a firefighter injured.
About 90,000 three-year-old pine trees were destroyed in a summer blaze eight years ago at the same Kaikuri Station site where the fire broke out yesterday about 4.30am, station trustee Mike Treadwell said yesterday.

“It was just deja vu driving over from Wellington this morning. I was expecting much worse considering how much more we lost in the last blaze.”
“More than anything I was relieved to get here and see all the fire crews and the helicopters in the air,” he said.

A Hinakura neighbour passing by the station at 5am yesterday noticed the hill blaze and contacted the farm manager, who rung the fire service, Mr Treadwell said.
“I got a call about 5.30am from the farm manager’s wife and by the time I got over from Wellington it was all go. I knew where the fire was, which is a similar area to the fire we had eight years ago, so I was probably expecting it to be just as bad and had visions of that fire in my mind.

“It wasn’t a pleasant drive over here,” he said.
Fire crews from Martinborough, Carterton, Lake Ferry, Ngawi and Rimutaka stations as well as two water tankers and a fire command unit set up base next to the river, bordering Kaikuri Station, and local farmers and civil defence came to the rescue with food and water.

A Gisborne-based helicopter was called in at 7am to assist the two local Amalgamated Helicopters and one from Helipro, which had been in the air since shortly after 6am, said Martinborough fire chief Garry Jackson.

Yesterday’s emergency was the most intense and gruelling fire fighting some of the volunteer crew had experienced, he said.

“It’s steep climbing up there and one of the main things is to make sure all the guys get plenty of breaks and stay watered.

“It’s some of the hardest work these guys have done and one of our Martinborough guys has already been taken to the doctors with cracked ribs after falling over out there.”
Mr Jackson said the response from Hinakura neighbours with refreshments and assisting fire crews with hoses and directions was typical of the community spirit in most rural areas.

“They got down here early and started up the barbeque and the civil defence has also been superb providing everything the boys need before they get up and get going again.”
Mr Jackson said yesterday’s fire was the 24th since New Year, compared with only nine callouts at this time last year.

“The fire restrictions started a lot earlier this year and now we’ve got a total ban which keeps things under control a bit but every now and then you get a big one like this breaking out.”

A Johnsonville crew spent yesterday covering the Martinborough station, while Wairarapa crews expected to spend most of the day at Hinakura, he said.
Mr Treadwell, a trustee of WN Pharazyn charitable trust, who owns Kaikuri Station, said the pine plantation was fully insured.

“It’s a setback for us and it’s not easy to replant because you have to chop everything down and even the stuff that looks okay is usually damaged in some way.”

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