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Chopper crews tackle forest blaze

PHOTO/SUPPLIED

KAREN COLTMAN
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Two helicopters were needed to dump water on a late afternoon fire at a forestry block out at Kerosene Ridge near Blairlogie on Wednesday.

The fire was not extinguished by sunset, but firefighters were called away.

Two Masterton crews and a tanker went out to the fire, along with a tanker from Carterton.

But some of the trucks couldn’t get into the difficult terrain safely so helicopters were brought to the job.

The site is steep and difficult to access.

Evidently the forestry company had a large burn up of debris [slash] under way, which has been burning for many weeks

But on Tuesday, wind gusts carried embers from the slash up the hill and they started “spot fires” in pockets and reached the top of the ridge.

Deputy principal fire officer Harry Howard said the fire was into the stand of pines but not to the canopy.

“The fire was burning into the lower areas of the trees,” Howard said.

“It is a difficult area to access, so for me to get the trucks up in there is too risky because if the ground gets too wet they could get stuck.

For the safety of crew, I got them out, and didn’t let some in.”

Howard called two helicopters in to assist: one from Amalgamated Helicopters, which led the operation, and one from Wairarapa Helicopters. They were called off at sunset.

“There are no lives at risk up there, so I need the fire emergency crew and the pilots safe.

If there were lives at risk, the pilots could fly at night, but this is not the case,” Howard said.

At 6pm Wednesday night the fire was not extinguished but Howard said it was under control.

Howard and a crew was be back up to Kerosene Ridge this morning.

He was assessing aerial photographs overnight.

Howard said it may keep burning a bit but was not a risk to lives.

“If it was summer, it is likely we would’ve stationed out there.

“I am viewing photographs from Jason Diedrichs from Amalgamated Helicopters and will assess what further fire control needs to be done on Thursday.”

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