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Fire rages along coast

Firefighters and helicopters with monsoon buckets battled a scrub fire near the Putangirua Pinnacles, which the Department of Conservation (DoC) says could have been “10 times worse”.

Fire authorities were alerted to the blaze on Cape Palliser Rd, on the South Wairarapa coast, just before 8am yesterday.

About 20 firefighters from Martinborough, Lake Ferry, Ngawi, a Wairarapa DoC crew, a Carterton water tanker and two Amalgamated helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets tackled the fire, which burnt through about 5 hectares of scrub, gorse and flax and took five hours to get under control.

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Amalgamated Helicopters fighting the fire on Cape Paliser Rd

Rural fire officer Porky Sexton said although most of the fire had been extinguished a forecast of strong winds was a concern. “We’re trying to tackle it as much as we can. The weather forecast is giving us 30 knot winds to start with and later looking at 90 knots, which is a bit scary,” Mr Sexton said.

He said thanks to the quick arrival of the helicopters the fire had been contained, saving a house and campsite. “We were lucky we got it cut off on that side, with the helicopters being on site early we managed to cut it off at the top. At the rate it was burning [the house] would have been gone,” Mr Sexton said.

Fire crews would be dampening down hot spots and would possibly have to keep watch overnight.

“Now we’re just keeping our fingers crossed. We’re going to have to monitor it, especially if the winds get up. If the wind gets up to 90 knots we might have to monitor it through the night.” DoC ranger Joe Hansen said yesterday the fire had been caused by a broken power line. “I think it was old and was corroded with salt,” Mr Hansen said. He said the blaze could have spread a lot further. “It could have been 10 times worse if it was summer. We’re just lucky with the helicopters, we would have had to drag hoses up there to put it out. “It’s meant to be gale force winds tomorrow, so we’ll try and do our best to get it all out today.”

Mr Hansen said DoC would probably be calling in a crew from Palmerston North or Napier to assist with the overnight watch.

Story reproduced from the Wairarapa Times Age website.

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