New Zealand/USA– Some Kiwi ingenuity by an experienced Northland firefighter is helping fight a peat fire on farmland bordering a forest in Washington.
The principal rural fire officer for Whangarei and Kaipara, Kevin Ihaka, was able to make peat probes out of local equipment to resemble tools he made in Whangarei.
“Simply a long piece of pipe with jets on the end to inject water into the underground fire.
“We now have 12 of these operating and are making slow, steady progress through the fire.”
Mr Ihaka is one of 15 Kiwi firefighters – and the only Northlander – helping battle large bushfires in the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, and Colorado. He is working on the Lime Belt fire in Washington state.
The fire, which has destroyed 148,250ha, has been 50 per cent contained and authorities have so far spent $29 million. Nine helicopters, 98 fire appliances and 21 crews were among resources working in that fire belt.
Mr Ihaka, who works as a division supervisor, said many American firefighters had never seen a peat fire before.
“Fortunately, I have experience with peat fires in Northland.”
He will be working in this area for some time as a lot of work needs to be done.
“This is a new experience for the crews working here and they are enjoying the experience and have been involved finding local equipment we can change to suit our needs.
“I am working 16-hour days and camping in a tent at a local showgrounds.
“The days are long but, now I have shaken the effects of jetlag, it is becoming more routine and not so hard to sleep.”
Mr Ihaka does not know as yet when the Kiwi crew will return home.
He said it depended on the needs for skills and the containment of the fire.
The fire was coming under control more every day but there were times when the weather conditions caused a few spots to heat up and, therefore, put pressure on containment lines.