Fire destroys trees worth $1m

By Kelli Hooks of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
The pine forest fire at Pahaoa Rd, South Wairarapa. Photo / Lynda Feringa
The pine forest fire at Pahaoa Rd, South Wairarapa. Photo / Lynda Feringa

A pine forest fire in South Wairarapa may have destroyed trees worth at least $1 million.

The blaze at Pahaoa Rd, east of Martinborough, had engulfed at least 100ha by yesterday afternoon.

Six helicopters with monsoon buckets and seven ground fire crews began battling the rapidly moving forest fire on Monday which was reported at 5.50am.

Fire crews from around the country were called in to assist Wairarapa, Upper Hutt and Wellington firefighters and department of conservation crews who had manned the area overnight on Monday.

Wairarapa rural fire officer Porky Sexton said crews from Rotorua, Napier, Nelson and Blenheim had joined Wairarapa and Wellington firefighters battling the blaze yesterday morning.

He estimated that 60 firefighters were tackling the blaze yesterday afternoon and that the majority of hot spots had been extinguished.

"The major fire spots are knocked down but in the mop up it's going to be a key factor if the wind gets up and that could regenerate a whole lot of other fires.

Fires can travel quite a way through the roots system.

He said about 100ha had been destroyed in the blaze and that it was the biggest fire Wairarapa had seen this year.

"It's under control but it could be a week or two weeks before we get it knocked right out."

He said that there had been some concern about danger to surrounding properties.

"At the speed it was travelling there was a bit of concern and that's why they upped the number of helicopters to get the water up on top of it."

An investigation into the cause of the fire has begun.

The pine forest block is owned by WN Pharazyn Trust and trustee Mical Treadwell said it was a "terrible, tragic loss".

"It's not a nice thing to have a fire and it's hopefully under control now but anything can happen if the wind gets up.

"There's a lot of hot spots to dampen over the next couple of days, it could flare up so it's not over yet," Mr Treadwell said.

He said the trees destroyed in the fire varied from between 16-19 years and were insured.

"Yes, we're insured but generally the insurance won't cover all of the actual loss," he said.

Masterton Forest Enterprises estimated the pine block could be worth about $10,000 a hectare.

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