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Nine brigades tackle Carterton grass blaze

Dozens of firefighters climbed steep slopes and rocky terrain over the weekend to prevent a two-hectare wildfire in rural Carterton from spreading out of control.

A member of the public alerted Fire Emergency New Zealand [Fenz] to smoke at a location on Rocky Hill Rd on Saturday shortly after 11am.

Wainuioru brigade arrived first at the scene and quickly judged that the blaze would require a significant effort to extinguish, so put out the call for more assistance.

Crews from Masterton, Carterton, Riversdale, Remutaka, Wellington North, Mauriceville, Castlepoint, and Tora responded to the call, as well as two local helicopters.

Fenz Wairarapa group manager Craig Cottrill said that altogether, close to 50 Almost 50 firefighters climbed steep slopes and rocky terrain over the weekend to prevent a two-hectare wildfire in rural Carterton from spreading out of control.

A member of the public alerted Fire Emergency New Zealand [Fenz] to smoke at a location on Rocky Hill Rd on Saturday shortly after 11am.

Wainuioru brigade arrived first at the scene and quickly judged that the blaze would require a significant effort to put out, so put out the call for more assistance.

Crews from Masterton, Carterton, Riversdale, Remutaka, Wellington North, Mauriceville, Castlepoint, and Tora responded to the call, as well as two local helicopters.

Fenz Wairarapa group manager Craig Cottrill said that altogether, close to 50 people assisted with putting out the fire.

He praised the decision to escalate the call and said that without the actions of the initial incident commander “we might be looking at a totally different fire”.

“To contain this fire to two hectares is a great outcome,” Cottrill said.

“It’s a good reminder for anyone who does see smoke to ring 111 as soon as they can.

“The sooner we can get to these fires, the sooner we can minimise their impact on the environment.”

Due to the remote location and tricky terrain, Cottrill said it took about 40 minutes for the first appliance [from the Wainuioru brigade] to arrive.

The fire tore through ungrazed grass under recently planted pine trees.

Cottrill estimated that the crews were assisting for about nine hours in total in putting the fire out, and then mopping up, and ensuring the fire was fully contained and wouldn’t spread any further.

“We were lucky because it started at the top of a hill, so the fire runs were downhill, which decreases speed and intensity,” Cottrill said.

“Also, the initial choice to upgrade the fire to a second alarm and get a helicopter in the air made a huge difference.”

Cottrill said that the fire investigator on site could tell that the fire began in the vicinity of a power pole, but the specific cause was still unknown.

On January 23, all of Wairarapa moved into a prohibited fire season, meaning no open-air fires are allowed, and all previously issued fire permits are revoked.

The restrictions remain in force until further notice.

For further information, and tips on how to stay ‘fire safe’, go to www.checkitsalright.nz. people assisted with putting out the fire.

He praised the decision to escalate the call and said that without the actions of the initial incident commander “we might be looking at a totally different fire”.

“To contain this fire to two hectares is a great outcome,” Cottrill said.

“It’s a good reminder for anyone who does see smoke to ring 111 as soon as they can.

“The sooner we can get to these fires, the sooner we can minimise their impact on the environment.”

Due to the remote location and tricky terrain, Cottrill said it took about 40 minutes for the first appliance [from the Wainuioru brigade] to arrive.

The fire tore through ungrazed grass under recently planted pine trees.

Cottrill estimated that the crews were assisting for about nine hours in total in putting the fire out, and then mopping up, and ensuring the fire was fully contained and wouldn’t spread any further.

“We were lucky because it started at the top of a hill, so the fire runs were downhill, which decreases speed and intensity,” Cottrill said.

“Also, the initial choice to upgrade the fire to a second alarm and get a helicopter in the air made a huge difference.”

Cottrill said that the fire investigator on site could tell that the fire began in the vicinity of a power pole, but the specific cause was still unknown.

On January 23, all of Wairarapa moved into a prohibited fire season, meaning no open-air fires are allowed, and all previously issued fire permits are revoked.

The restrictions remain in force until further notice.

For further information, and tips on how to stay ‘fire safe’, go to www.checkitsalright.nz

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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