Rain gives firefighters a well-deserved rest

By Anneke Smith

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WELCOME RELIEF: The rain is dampening down any hot spots from this week's fire.
WELCOME RELIEF: The rain is dampening down any hot spots from this week's fire.

In the aftermath of a fire-induced state of emergency earlier this week Hawke's Bay was yesterday graced with some much-needed rainfall that gave those battling the flames a chance to rest and recover.

National Rural Fire Authority incident controller John Sutton said there weren't any firefighting personnel at the fire scenes yesterday as crews were stood down due to the steady rainfall.

The national team called in to help during Monday's state of emergency was demobalised on Thursday; leaving region's fires to the Hastings Rural Fire Authority.

"It's really just a patrol and monitor situation now," Mr Sutton said.

While the flames battled earlier this week are now long-gone, Mr Sutton said it's possible hotspots, with the potential to reignite if winds pick up, remain.

"There may be pockets of fuel and if they did catch on fire then that's a danger because the wind will carry embers," he said.

"But in saying that I don't believe there is any risk of it spreading."

Metservice meteorologist Thomas Adams said weather conditions were not looking particularly windy; Napier's strongest gust reaching just 39 kmh yesterday.

Much of Hawke's Bay was soaked with 32mm of rain yesterday and Mr Adams said the weekend was set to have isolated downpours.

Recent weather conditions have hindered sealing work contractors had undertaken on the Napier-Taupo Rd; leaving small sections of the road in need of urgent repair.

The NZ Transport Agency had advised motorists that care is needed on State Highway 5 and State Highway 2 near Napier while contractors wait until the weather clears.

"As a consequence, the road surface is slippery and we have had to put in place a temporary speed limit of 30 km/h to keep road users traveling through these sites safe," NZ Transport Agency highway manager Wayne Oldfield said.

Mr Sutton said while the rain was helpful for firefighting, the crew's efforts on Thursday successfully ensured there were no buried hotspots within a 100m area inside the Waimarama Rd containment line.

"We were in a really good position by Wednesday, to the point where we had achieved good containment of the fires," he said.

Mr Sutton said this week's emergency, which saw four fires burning at once, was complicated by new fires starting throughout the day and night; stretching fire crews thin and making it harder to manage the blazes.

Before any of the fires could be declared fully extinguished Mr Sutton said a final check would need to be done using infrared heat-detecting technology.

Yesterday's rainfall, although expected to reach about 40mm by the end of the day, would not be enough to put out the fires on it's own, Mr Sutton said.

For that, Mr Sutton said the ground would need about 200mm of rain.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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