Introduction

Discarded hot ashes nearly burnt down Hope Arm Hut earlier this month.

Date:  26 January 2016

Hot ashes beneath Hope Arm Hut.
Hot ashes beneath Hope Arm Hut

A near miss in a Fiordland backcountry hut has raised the burning issue of fire prevention for the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Hope Arm Hut, a standard 12-bunk hut on the southern shores of Lake Manapouri, was almost burnt to the ground earlier this month after hot ashes from the hut’s log-burner were discarded close to the building by trampers.

The trampers had placed the embers next to the hut but failed to ensure they were fully extinguished. An overnight breeze then blew the smouldering fire underneath the building. A local hunter, also staying in the hut, woke the following morning to find his feet were unusually hot and, on investigation of the source, raised the alarm.

DOC Senior Ranger, Craig Good, responded to the alert and extinguished the fire which had by then destroyed two hut piles. “These people were very, very lucky that the fire didn’t fully ignite,” Craig Good said. “Thanks to the hunter who raised the alarm, we were able to save the hut.”

Damage to the building is estimated at $2000.

Greg Lind, DOC Operations Manager in Te Anau said that this summer’s hot, dry weather has heightened the risk of fires, “Most fires are due to carelessness; either when permitted or non-permitted fires get out of control, or when a campfire is not fully put out before leaving a campsite,” he said.

“Wild fires can put lives at risk, destroy property, and devastate natural areas. Fire poses a serious risk to public conservation land and their natural, cultural, historical and recreational values.”

“Anyone who lights a campfire is responsible for ensuring the fire is also properly, and fully, extinguished. Ashes are to be disposed of at least 20 metres from buildings, and well clear of any vegetation. Use plenty of water to douse the embers.”

While fires in hut log-burners are permitted, a written fire permit is required from DOC to light any fire in the open on public conservation land at any time. In some cases a permit is required for a fire within 1 km of this land. For information on lighting a fire in the open on public conservation land, contact your local DOC office.

Anyone who discovers a wild fire should call 111.

Contact

Kate Hebblethwaite, Senior Ranger (Te Anau)
Phone: +64 3 249 0237
Email: khebblethwaite@doc.govt.nz

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