Two fires fanned by strong winds have been prevented from spreading through major regional forests by the prompt action of firefighters.

On Saturday afternoon in Brandon Hall Rd, near Bulls, firefighters spent about six hours damping down a smouldering fire that had potential to spread into Santoft Forest.

And on Friday afternoon a helicopter was on hand within 20 minutes to douse a fire in commercial pine forest 20km inland from State Highway 3 on Rangitatau Rd.

Rural fire officers warn the region is drying out fast, and there will soon be fire restrictions. In both fires, wind provided an extra element of risk, with potential to spread fire quickly and endanger firefighters.


On Friday afternoon Whanganui/Taranaki/Ruapehu deputy principal rural fire officer Gavin Pryce got news of a fire in Rangitatau East Rd forest about 3.40pm.

The alarm was raised by a forestry crew working in the area. There's no cellphone coverage but they radioed their head office, which rang 111.

Pryce knew he had to act quickly.

"In a commercial forest when there's a lot at stake financially, we will send everything we need."

He had a helicopter on site in 20 minutes, and couple of loads of water were enough to slow the fire down.

It took nearly an hour for rural firefighters to get to the site in four wheel drive vehicles. They spent another hour and a half turning over logs and damping down vegetation.

The forestry crew had got to the site first, Pryce said. They kept the fire at bay until the helicopter arrived.

"The gang went and dealt to it as best they could. They actually did a really good job, using shovels and hand tools. They tried to clear the vegetation in front of it and they stopped it spreading up the hill."

The next day, in Bulls, the alarm went up about a fire on coastal Brandon Hall Rd at noon.

Bulls Chief Fire Officer Brian Carter said forestry slash was being intentionally burned, and the fire got out of control when the wind came up.

It took firefighters a while to find the fire, and they needed access across another property. Bulls sent two trucks, and there was also one from Koitiata, one from Marton, and two tankers.

They found smouldering in low grass and forestry slash up the sides of two sand hills and the valley between. It was a slow-moving fire.

"It wasn't a major start-up risk, but if we had let it just burn there would have been quite a large risk," Manawatū principal rural fire officer Bradley Shanks said.

Luckily there was still a digger from a forestry operation on site. It was used to make a firebreak. Firefighters stayed at the scene until about 6pm.

Shanks advises people not to burn anything in the strip of Rangitīkei between the coast and SH3, because fire risk is growing.

He's expecting restrictions to be in force within the next two weeks.