Wasps send fire officer running as crew battles suspicious blaze

By Adriana Weber -
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Chief fire officer Tong Kingi is allergic to wasps - so he wasn't sticking around when the wasps' nest was discovered.
Chief fire officer Tong Kingi is allergic to wasps - so he wasn't sticking around when the wasps' nest was discovered.

A swarm of wasps nesting under a fire hydrant gave firefighters more than they bargained for over the weekend.

The Turangi Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to a vegetation fire on Te Rewha St, not far from the Tongariro River, about 12pm on Saturday.

The fire, measuring about 20sq m by 30sq m, sent plumes of thick smoke into the air which could be seen from the town centre.

Chief fire officer Tong Kingi said fire trucks were unable to gain direct access to the fire, so hoses had to be dragged into the scrub to put it out.

As the crews worked, they made a surprising discovery - a huge wasp nest, containing hundreds of the stinging insects, under a fire hydrant.

Mr Kingi, who is allergic to wasps, said his first reaction was to run for it.

"I just bolted, I just wanted to get out of there," he said.

"It wasn't what we expected to find that's for sure."

People who had gathered on the street to watch the fire laughed at his reaction, he said. Carbon dioxide had to be sprayed on the wasps so crews could access the hydrant.

About an hour later, after the fire was safely put out and everyone was safe and well, Mr Kingi and the crew had a few moments to laugh at the unexpected obstacle.

"Everyone was in hysterics.

" Here was this fire officer who had been battling this blazing inferno, running away from a swarm of wasps.

"We certainly had a few laughs."

Mr Kingi said there had been a fire at the same location about three months ago.

The cause of the fire was being investigated and was being treated as suspicious.

No one was harmed, either by the fire or the wasps.

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