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Firefighters hard at work

The fire risk in Wairarapa is growing, and local firefighters have been hard at work keeping uncontrolled fires at bay while educating the public about fire safety and what to do in the event of an out-of-control blaze.

Yesterday, firefighters attended a fire at Kahutara near Lake Wairarapa for the third time.

The initial blaze began at about 10.30am on Friday and was extinguished in the early evening by crews from Featherston, Carterton, and Lake Ferry with backup provided by helicopter – which was stood down at about 4pm once the fire came under control.

At about 8am on Sunday, the fire flared once again, prompting a speedy response from Featherston, Martinborough, Masterton, Remutaka, Ngāwī, Lake Ferry, and Wainuiomata crews, with help from two helicopters.

Featherston Fire Chief Colin McKenna confirmed yesterday that crews had returned to the site to dampen areas and put out small spot fires.

Despite the increased fire risk for the region, McKenna said they are well prepared.

“We’re as prepared as we can be, and we have as much hose as we possibly can,” he said.

A fire break has been cut around the perimeter of the fire area at Kahutara, and Fire and Emergency [Fenz] Wairarapa assistant commander Craig Cottrill said they will continue monitoring the site for any flare-ups.

People have been urged not to do any outdoor activities that could generate a spark; things like mowing lawns or ploughing fields have been known to start fires.

If someone must mow their lawns, McKenna said, “earlier [in the day] is best, when there’s still a bit of dew”.

If somebody calls emergency services in a rural area, it is also best that they wait for the responding units to arrive and direct them to where the fire is – saving firefighters time and, in turn, reducing the amount of time that the fire has to spread.

Peter Rabbit’s Rescue

Firefighters tackling the third call of the day on Friday stumbled across a sad, sooty surprise sheltering under a pile of smoking vegetation.

A rabbit – nicknamed Peter Rabbit – was rescued by the two crews from Masterton and Carterton while attending a blaze in East Taratahi.

A member of Carterton Fire Brigade, Wayne Robinson, said he watched the scene unfold.

“When the tractor lifted it up so we could get into the bottom of it, little Peter Rabbit poked his head out,” Robinson said.

“He was a bit black, but they got him out and gave him a drink of water.”

While noting that the rabbit made a good recovery, Robinson said he didn’t foresee a fire station pet working out too well, given the limited amount of spare time the crew has at the moment.

After Peter Rabbit was carried around in a pocket for the day, Carterton firefighter Kylie Elwin said she volunteered to take him home.

“The poor thing was pulled out from a burn pile; he was pretty charcoal-looking,” Elwin said.

“He came home with me for the weekend, and my kids were rapt.”

Initially thinking that they might keep the rabbit, Elwin said that she followed advice to release him.

“We had Peter Rabbit for two days at home, then he started to get out of his box, and so I told my kids it’s time for him to find a new family.”

The fire that Elwin and crew from Masterton and Carterton were assisting with when Peter Rabbit was found was a relight, something Elwin said was unfortunate.

“It had been smouldering under the earth and, with the sun and wind direction managed to spark up again,” Elwin said.

“Just a reminder to everyone to stop lighting fires while the dry weather is so extreme.”

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