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Wind, fire hazards swiftly handled

Fire and Emergency New Zealand [Fenz] is issuing a stern reminder to the public that Wairarapa is in a prohibited fire season, after two unattended fires were discovered by local brigades attending another job.

Amid severe northwest gales, at 1.46pm yesterday Carterton and Greytown brigades dealt with a grass fire in Carterton that was sparked by power lines being blown into trees.

A Fenz spokesperson said the power lines arcing into trees caused the fire to spark in Dalefield, and the crew were able to put it out using two tanker appliances and one pump appliance.

She said that Powerco had been notified, and that “it shows how important it is to keep trees pruned back from power lines”.

While at the site of the fire, crew noticed two 44 gallon drums burning at the southern end of the property, which they also put out.

The spokesperson said the property owners were not present at the scene and that a member of the public had reported the power line blaze.

“I’d like to stress that the Wairarapa region is in a prohibited fire season, and that it is really important not to light fires at the moment,” she said.

“Especially when there’s extremely high winds occurring.”

The wind warning was in place from 1pm to 8pm yesterday.

At print time, a Powerco spokesperson could not identify a job logged by Fenz but said there were extra crews on standby should the severe gales lead to further outages in the region.

She said that 73 customers lost power in the Lake Domain Rd area at the northern end of Lake Wairarapa at 11.44am after a different tree went through power lines.

“While 27 customers had power restored just after 12.30pm, crews are continuing to work to restore supply to the remaining customers as quickly and safely as possible in the conditions.”

The spokesperson said that Powerco crews also responded to another outage affecting 689 properties in and around Carterton and Ponatahi after supply was cut at 2.38pm due to another tree going into power lines.

All customers except one had power restored by 3.43pm yesterday.

She reminded the public that anyone coming across downed power lines must stay at least 10 metres away and treat all fallen lines as if they were live.

“Stay away from trees or cars touching lines, and contact Powerco or emergency services.”

Tree blocks SH2

The gale also brought down a large tree bordering SH2 just south of Greytown, causing it to fall across the road yesterday afternoon.

Police were alerted to the tree blocking both the north and southbound lanes on SH2 at around 2.55pm.

A police spokesperson said contractors were promptly notified and locals were helping with the removal of the tree.

Pip Mackie, who was driving on SH2 at the time of the tree’s fall, said she drove through while there were two NZTA trucks directing traffic.

She estimated the tree could have been up to 25 metres in length, and said it looked like it had snapped.

“It looked healthy too, so that’s a worry when healthy trees are being knocked over,” Mackie said.

“It was quite a substantial tree, with lots of leaves and branches coming off it.

“How it missed any traffic is beyond me – they would’ve been killed.”

A Waka Kotahi spokesperson confirmed the road was cleared and open again by 4.30pm, and reminded drivers to take extra care on the roads during the current bad weather.

“Road users are urged to drive to the conditions, be ready for hazards, and allow for extra travel time.”

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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