Great Barrier fire spreads
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 5:34a.m.
A major scrub fire on Great Barrier Island is still burning, and has spread overnight.
Strong winds fanned flames yesterday which spread into pine forests and soon covered eight hectares of the remote island.
Principal rural fire officer Bryan Cartelle says the blaze has grown overnight, and firefighters are still evaluating the size of the fire.
“We had crews in over night working from the roads… we currently have a helicopter in the air doing [reconnaissance] to just quantify the direction and where the fire has spread to, and that will determine what our strategy is today,” says Mr Cartelle.
Yesterday 40 firefighters, supported by three helicopters with monsoon buckets, struggled to contain the blaze, and additional support and material has been sent from Auckland to help them today.
“We are well equipped for a vegetation fire, the key activity today will be ground based, working the flanks of the fire, and an aerial attack on the head of the fire.
“We have three helicopters on the island.”
Around 900 people live on the island and around 40 homes and businesses have been evacuated, though Mr Cartelle says no homes are in direct danger and the evacuations are just a precautionary step.
Emergency services were called to the fire at Kaitoke Beach, on the east of the island, around 1:20pm yesterday.
Local board chairman Paul Dowie says there's no knowing what the final outcome will be.
“My best wish would be a good downfall of rain but that’s not going to happen, so hopefully the wind will dissipate which will make it easier for the firefighters to contain the fire and hopefully that will allow them to contain it within the area it is currently burning at the present time.”
Mr Cartelle says the cause of the fire is under investigation but "needs to be treated with a little bit of suspicion".
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