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Great Barrier fire leaves trail of destruction

Wednesday 23 Jan 2013 12:14 p.m.

More firefighters have joined the effort to tackle a fire on Great Barrier Island that has been blazing since Tuesday.

Winds overnight caused the fire to spread and the blaze has so far forced the evacuation of around 20 homes near Kaitoke Beach – although Civil Defence says no properties have been damaged.

Three helicopters and 40 firefighters continue to work on the fire front today, which stretches approximately 1km and covers 112 hectares.

3 News reporter Alex Bourn flew over the island this morning and says there is a clear trail of damage where the fire has cut through the bush.

Firefighters are concentrating on containing the blaze at the southern side of the fire – closest to Claris airfield.

“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. Flights from Claris have been affected but Okiwi airfield remains operational, with extra support staff.

Northeasterly winds, between 35 and 40km/hr, are forecast for the remainder of the day but are expected ease this evening and overnight. Firefighters have worked through the night with fresh crews started at 6:30 this morning.  Due to safety concerns, helicopter crews were stood down overnight but have returned to full operation.

Around 900 people live on Great Barrier Island. Mr Cartelle says 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".

3 News

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