Monitoring team reduced in Pouto

By Annette Lambly

The number of ground crew monitoring a fire that destroyed 200ha of scrub, bush and forestry on the Pouto Peninsula was reduced to 16 yesterday with officials saying the area is now only smouldering - not burning.

Department of Conservation spokeswoman Karen Joyce-Paki said there had been some hot spots over the weekend, but nothing that was alarming.

While the department's control unit left yesterday afternoon, ground crews were likely to keep the area monitored for the next week.

The fire started last Tuesday morning in swamp and scrub land in a Department of Conservation area called Punahaere Creek, but later the same day spread into a privately-owned forestry block.

Up to four helicopters with monsoon buckets and ground crews in excess of 80 people managed to keep the fire contained for the next three days. The cost of the helicopters alone was estimated to be about $86,000 a day.

Mrs Joyce-Paki praised the efforts of all those involved.

She also thanked the community. "Their generosity was overwhelming ...

the food and drink ... even towels to help the crews clean up ... Farmers gave us access to their own private water dams, water they may well need for their stock ... they helped whenever and wherever they could," she said.

For the last week crews were billeted at the Waikaretu Marae and the Rangitane Hall. The cause of the fires is still being treated as suspicious.

- Northern Advocate

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