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Palliser bushfire

A large fire broke out near Cape Palliser Rd on Monday evening. PHOTOS/JOHN LAZO-RON

Campers accused of ‘sloppy job’ while putting out campfire
Vehicle seen driving away from fire

Ngawi residents have accused campers in Cape Palliser of causing a large scrub fire that engulfed a vast area close to Cape Palliser Rd on Monday evening.

Multiple Fire and Emergency crews from Wellington and Wairarapa battled a large blaze south of Ngawi until Tuesday afternoon, with 90 per cent of the fire contained by 2pm.

Two helicopters were brought in early Tuesday morning to tackle the fire as ground crews found the steep terrain too difficult to access.

The fire spread over about 30 hectares over the hill, just a few km south of Cape Palliser’s iconic lighthouse.

Although a Fire and Emergency spokesperson said the fire’s cause had yet to be determined, Ngawi witnesses have put the fire down to campers “doing a sloppy job” of putting
their fire out.

“I’m pretty damn sure it was a little campfire that started – who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“There were some people round by the creek who were camping and had a little fire going so you can almost guarantee that’s what it was.

“Something small turning into something massive simply because they didn’t take proper care of the fire they had going.

“It would have been just a sloppy job of them putting it out.”

Another Ngawi man said his son had discovered the fire burning on Monday evening when he had set out that way to let some cray pots out in the sea.

“When my son saw the fire, he also saw a vehicle driving out at the same time.”

“Then he realised how big it was and rushed to contact emergency services.

“By the time he got back it bloody spread immensely.

“He tried to put out as much as he could himself, but basically said, ‘we need helicopters’.”

The man said he hoped the campers would see all the news of what they had done but did not think they would come clean about it.

The Fire and Emergency spokesperson said they had now ceased work with the helicopters on the blaze. They would also be withdrawing all personnel from the area except for one crew who would remain overnight to watch if the fire sparked up again.

“The crew will start back up again at 7am [yesterday] and from there they’ll decide what actions to take,” he said.

“It may just be a watching brief as stuff does go subterranean and starts to burn underground, but there may be rain overnight which would help.”

He said no investigation was being conducted at the moment and was not sure if one would be done.

Asked about the residents’ accusations on campers causing the fire, he said, “the locals may well have known and seen a lot more than we’re aware of, but for now as far as we’re concerned, we’re not aware of what caused it”.

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