DOC Fight Fire In Protected Chathams Peat Forest

  DOC Fight Fire In Protected Chathams Peat Forest

30 November 2007

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New Zealand — Department of Conservation firefighters are battling a blaze in a protected peat forest on the Chatham Islands.

The fire is burning in the southern end of the 422.9 ha Wharekauri (Greenswamp) Conservation Area in the northern Chatham Islands. It forms part of the extensive peat swamp system of the northern Chatham Islands and is one of New Zealand’s best examples of peat swamps.

“This Dracophyllum peat forest is unique to the island and its regeneration has been amazing in the five years since this area was protected,” Chathams Area manager Ken Hunt said.

“If the fire can’t be controlled it will be devastating for this unique area.”

A local farmer reported the fire to DOC at 1.40pm and a fire crew was quickly despatched to the area. The fire is split into two fronts. One is an active front of around 100 metres, with flames up to two metres high. It is being controlled by the 10-person fire crew using water pumped from a nearby creek.

There are sporadic flare-ups on the other 500 metre front and suitable water points are being investigated.

By 4 pm today it was reported that around 5ha of the conservation area had been burnt by fire.

It is not known at this stage how the fire started. It is currently warm and dry on the Chathams with five to 10 knot south westerly winds.

“The weather has been like this for about three weeks and the locals are saying this is an unusually long dry spell,” Mr Hunt said.

Ironically part of the conservation area north of where the fire is burning was severely damaged by flooding in April this year. Hundreds of metres of fencing were flattened during one of the heaviest downpours recorded there for many years. The conservation area had only recently been fenced completely to keep out stock.

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