Lusi fails to deliver knockout blow to blaze

By Peter de Graaf

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Firefighters hoped Cyclone Lusi would douse the biggest blaze of 2013-2014 so far.
Firefighters hoped Cyclone Lusi would douse the biggest blaze of 2013-2014 so far.

Even a tropical cyclone was not enough to put out a huge fire burning in the Far North since Thursday last week.

Firefighters were praying Cyclone Lusi would douse a 30ha scrub fire at Taheke Rd - the biggest blaze of the 2013-14 season so far - but the storm dropped only 24mm of rain on South Hokianga.

At its height on Thursday afternoon four helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets, backed by ground crews from Kaikohe and Kerikeri, battled to stop the flames spreading to houses and a nearby pine forest.

Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said the latest fire - in the same area as another huge blaze four years ago - was the result of an "extraordinary level of stupidity" and left him "unbelievably annoyed".

It came just two days after Mr Taylor further notched up fire restrictions and issued a stern warning that every person who lit a fire would be made to pay the costs of putting it out.

"This just shows people are continuing to ignore fire conditions," he fumed.

Investigators were still looking into the cause.

Two crews remained at the scene yesterday and it was unclear how long they would have to stay, Mr Taylor said. Hotspots were still bursting into flame on Sunday. Mr Taylor said it would take only a few days of sun and wind to return the Far North to pre-Lusi fire danger levels, so there would be no let up in fire restrictions.

Northland is subject to a restricted fire season but in the Far North authorities have stopped issuing permits, effectively imposing a total fire ban.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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