Bush fire threatens Hell’s Gate

Bush fire threatens Hell’s Gate

3 March 2006

published by www.dailypost.co.nz

Rotorua, New Zealand — A scrub fire threatened a major Rotorua tourist attraction thismorning.

Firefighter Nick Webb watches a sulphur fire burn at Hell’s Gate. Picture: Stephen Parker 

Sulphur in one of the many hot pools at Hell’s Gate Waiora Spa caused a blaze damaging native bush surrounding the cultural, geothermal, health and spa attraction.

Rotorua’s Fire Service chief Wayne Bedford said firefighters had been at Hell’s Gate since 3am and were expected to remain there until late this morning.

He said the scrub fire was put out quite quickly but the sulphur fire needed to be dealt with carefully because fumes came off it when it burns and could be inhaled.

Mr Bedford said firefighters had to wear breathing apparatus to ensure their safety.

Fire trucks from Rotorua, Ngongotaha, West Rotoiti and Rotoiti were all used in a bid to carry water from Brunswick Park to the fire because there was no water at Hell’s Gate.

Tikitere chief executive Jim Gray said because of safety concerns for the public, the walkways would be closed for the next few days.

He said signage, barriers and a fence all damaged by the blaze would be re-erected, the area would be closed off and a helicopter with monsoon buckets would be used in areas of native bush.

“[It] will be closed for two or three days to re-erect barriers and check all safety aspects,” Mr Gray said.

“Quite an area of native bush has suffered and that will mean a considerable replanting programme,” he said.

“We suspect [the fire] started through spontaneous combustion of the sulphur.”

Mr Gray said he was looking to the positives and said the spa experiences offered by Hell’s Gate would remain open.

“We’re disappointed but the whole thing is that it’s not going to stop us. We’d love people to come out and see the war of nature in its raw state,” he said.

Hell’s Gate operations manager Adam Hughes said geothermal fires travelled underground and because the area was bordered by native bush, that could have explained the blaze.

“When the sulphur is on fire it goes bright blue and it looks like a blue liquid over the rocks,” Mr Hughes said.


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