Wānaka Sun       

Fire blazes through 100 hectares near Lake Wānaka

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 10 Oct, 2019 | By Abby Costen newdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz

Last Sunday evening Fire and Emergency NZ received a 111 call at 9:24pm to an alert of trees on fire around Diamond Lake.

The fire burnt through approximately 100 hectares of tussock, matagouri shrub and grass and had jumped the road which risked doing further damage had it not been for the efforts of the responding crews.

The cause of the fire is unknown, however it is not being treated as suspicious at this stage.

Two helicopters actively battled the blaze with a further two helicopters coordinating the attack and transportation of firefighting ground crews.

There were four ground crews, made up of Fire and Emergency New Zealand firefighters and Department of Conservation, plus additional support staff from all over Otago coordinating and managing the incident. 

The terrain is rocky and presented challenges to the crews, and an increase in wind speeds caused the fire to flare up again on Monday. 

A firefighter was injured while moving a log on the fire ground—suffering lacerations and bruising to his head and face—and was transported to Wānaka as a precaution.

That being said, Fire and Emergency New Zealand have confirmed the injured firefighter has been cleared of any serious injuries and is “in good spirits”. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand have issued a public warning about climbing areas, as members of the public have been spotted trying to access the climbing areas around Hospital Flat, which borders the fires' perimeter.  

The climbing ropes left in situ may have been damaged or compromised by fire and firefighting operations, therefore Fire and Emergency NZ are urging people to stay clear of the area and not use these compromised lines. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand also commented that the firefighting operations seem to be running smoothly with helicopters and ground crews continuing to control the fire. 

Incident controller Mark Mawhinney said, “that there has been no loss of structures or livestock” and praised the work of the response of the crews late Sunday night who stopped the fire from establishing itself on the opposite site of Wānaka–Mount Aspiring Road. 

 “The continued commitment of our volunteers should always be recognised in protecting their communities and our environment.” said Mawhinney. “[There has been] no more fire activity since [Monday] afternoon. Ongoing checks will need to be carried out for a number of days as we know there is an area of the fire that we can't put ground crews into and it's impossible for the helicopters to get water into. We have dampened down around these areas and will continue to monitor it. Hopefully with the damp conditions these areas will go out over time. A fire investigator will be on site today. It will be a difficult job to determine the cause.”


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