New Zealand — It could take until next winter before the Horeke forest fire – Northland’s biggest in many years – is fully extinguished, a top firefighter says.
Northland principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said the firefighting operation was likely to be scaled down today to one patrol every few days.
Initial hopes that the 345ha fire could be declared out this week had been quashed by the depth of the remaining hotspots.
“Some of these hotspots are so deep-seated they’ll be there for months and months.”
However, they were not a danger to the remaining pines in the 1400ha forest or neighbouring properties.
“They’ll just fester away until they’re gone,” Mr Taylor said.
Extinguishing every last trace of the fire could take three or four major rainfall events, which was unlikely to happen before winter.
The Okaihau Fire Brigade was called to a flare-up at 8pm on Wednesday, spending more than an hour dousing the flames. However, the flare-up was well inside the burnt area and “nothing to worry about”.
The flurry of 111 calls showed the community still had a heightened fire awareness, Mr Taylor said.
The flare-up occurred at one of 12 hotspots identified by a helicopter using an infrared camera at dawn on Wednesday.
Volunteers from the Rawhiti rural fire party were attacking the hotspots yesterday with hand tools and a tanker.
Locals had been asked to stay vigilant and firefighters would patrol the area every few days or any time smoke was seen.
More rain was forecast this weekend, which would be “really, really helpful”.
The fire started when workers on a government employment scheme clearing vegetation for a cycle trail lit a small burnoff next to Horeke Rd. Fanned by strong winds, the flames spread quickly through grass and scrub, then jumped the road into the 1400ha White Cliffs pine plantation. The forest is privately owned but on leased Maori land.
Twelve hotspots were also found at the Karikari Peninsula fire in a dawn flyover on Tuesday, before the funeral of DoC ranger William Macrae.