Introduction

Find out about the latest updates at the Mahia fire in Gisborne.

Date:  03 February 2009

3 Feb 2009
9.30am

On day three of a scrub fire at Mahia, evacuated residents can return to their homes after fire-fighters concentrated on keeping the area near YMCA Road well controlled overnight. Principal Rural Fire Officer, John Sutton of the Department of Conservation said today that although there were several flare-ups overnight, they were all controlled by teams working on the fire and nothing escaped the containment line.

“We had a small amount of rain that helped although it was not enough to have a serious affect on the fire. Apart from maintaining the containment line, our priority was to make the area near YMCA Road safe so that residents can return to their homes,” Mr Sutton said.

The National Incident Management Team took over the job of controlling the fire at 7 a.m. today, giving local fire-fighters a well-earned rest. Staff and resources from around the country are being used in the difficult job of extinguishing the deep-seated fire. An estimate of the time it will take to fully extinguish the fire and its likely cost should be made by the end of today. It is expected that fire-fighters will be on the scene for at least a week, possibly longer, depending on weather conditions. The weather forecast for today is for high temperatures.

Fire investigators have spoken to local residents and are checking the site, seeking to find the cause of the fire. Damaged buildings will also be inspected today.

2 Feb 2009
4pm

Aerial inspection of a scrub fire at Mahia has revealed that it is now 95% contained and will hopefully be fully contained by the end of today, according to Principal Rural Fire Officer, John Sutton of the Department of Conservation.

“Tonight we will be actively working on extinguishing hot spots near YMCA Road with five or six fire crews. We are concerned about the possibility of a wind change from the north that could send the fire towards Mahia settlement, so our highest priority is to prevent that from happening,” Mr Sutton said.

Throughout the day, 100 fire-fighters including contractors, rural fire authorities and DOC staff have been working to contain the deep-seated fire, using two bulldozers, three excavators and three helicopters.

Due to the danger of a flare up in the area, none of the residents evacuated from YMCA Road will be permitted to return to their homes tonight. YMCA Road is currently closed.

The Mahia incident is one of a number of fires that have occurred on the East Coast over the last two days. Mr Sutton urged people to take great care as the fire danger is very high in the area.

2 Feb 2009

The long duration and complicated nature of a scrub fire at Mahia has resulted in an official request for National Incident Management Team assistance according to Don Scott of the Gisborne District Council.

“The fire is burning in cut-over regenerating pines, raupo swamp and dry grass. It is a deep seated fire that will cause problems for some time. The National Incident Management Team request means that resources from other districts will be available to fight the fire,” Mr Scott said.

The fire has a perimeter of seven and a half kilometres and is believed to have burned 65 hectares, destroyed one house and damaged seven buildings. A wind change overnight resulted in a new flank to the west opening up and the fire crossed YMCA Road. Excavators were used to contain the southern flank of the fire overnight.

New Zealand Police evacuated houses in the area and many people self-evacuated yesterday and last night. The local community has rallied to help the fire-fighting effort, providing food for the workers, something that is very much appreciated.

Yesterday fire-fighters from a number of agencies and volunteers crews put in a huge effort to fight the fire. An investigation of the cause of the fire is starting today.

Today, approximately 100 fire-fighters are working in the area with aerial assistance from three helicopters DOC spokesman Malcolm Smith said that the nature of the fire is such that it is likely to cause problems for some time.

“Our priority today is to contain the fire which we hope to do by this evening. We are concerned about a forecast wind change this afternoon that could push the fire into an area of very heavy fuel including wilding pines.

“For now, the flames may be gone but we could be on the ground mopping up hot spots for another two weeks,” Mr Smith said.

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