Pukehina homes escape major fire

By John Cousins, Kiri Gillespie

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A major scrub fire in Pukehina blackened an area about the size of three rugby fields and threatened homes.

The fire, between houses and the lagoon, brought the seaside town to a standstill yesterday. Flames fanned by a westerly wind burned through undergrowth for nearly two hours until it was brought under control by fire crews.

The fire spread so much that extra breathing equipment was needed when Pukehina Brigade volunteers began to run out of oxygen supplies.


The 25 firefighters had been battling the fire for about an hour since 3pm when the call was made for additional breathing gear.

Te Puke and Maketu brigades were called in as back-up to contain the blaze which ignited about 2ha of land directly behind the houses on Pukehina Pde.

A section of Pukehina Pde was cordoned off.

Pukehina fire chief Errol Watts said the fire endangered the nearby houses at one stage before firefighters got it under control.

"The flames were about 4m high directly behind the houses. It was quite scary.

"People had their garden hoses out over the fence and everything," he said.

"It was very difficult terrain. It was all toi toi."

Firefighters battling the blaze. Photo / John Borren

Mr Watts said the fire appeared to have been started by somebody burning rubbish.

Pukehina resident Ron Shields said the fire came within 50m of his back fence and everyone was relieved the direction of the wind pushed the blaze along a strip parallel to Pukehina Pde rather than across towards the houses.

"We were very lucky with the wind."

Mr Shields said it would have been a different story if the wind had been blowing from across the lagoon towards the homes.

He became worried at one stage when the fire started travelling virtually north to south along a particularly dry strip. "But the fire boys soon spotted that and attended to it."

The scrub contained heavy undergrowth and had become quite combustible after a prolonged period of dry and windy days.

He said the fire moved through the undergrowth and would pop up into the open again 20-30m further along.

"There was a lot of pampas grass and native grasses that burned very well."

Mr Shields said it was the biggest scrub fire he had seen along the strip between the houses and the lagoon in his 27 years living in Pukehina.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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