"Rural fire have really upped their game - those guys were amazing. They had a plan, knew what they were doing, and executed it."

The owner of a remote property in Skippers Canyon, Queenstown, has praised the fire and helicopter crews who tackled a massive scrub blaze on Saturday evening.

The fire spread across 148ha, burning two large hillsides surrounding Brett Mills' house at the bottom of Deep Creek, which is about 40 minutes' drive along a road some consider one of the most dangerous in the world.

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Large scrub fire near Queenstown 'largely contained', woodshed and car destroyed

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Seven fire crews and six helicopters using monsoon buckets battled the fire, which started about 2.30pm.

They took water from the nearby Shotover River, from tankers gingerly driven along the single-lane road, and even from the swimming pool at the front of the property.

By 7pm, the fire was largely contained.

The cause is being investigated but it is believed to be accidental.

"It is thought to have started from a pile of material which has been burnt over the last couple of days,", Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer for Central Otago Mark Mawhinney said.

"We suspect the wind's got into it and, because the fire was unattended, the sparks have crossed over into the surrounding area."

Brett Mills' Toyota truck, which was destroyed in the fire. Photo / Paul Taylor
Brett Mills' Toyota truck, which was destroyed in the fire. Photo / Paul Taylor

Mawhinney said it could have been much worse had it happened a couple of months later, when everything would be drier.

"The two things are: the fire was unattended and wasn't put out.

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"People need to plan. They put a fire on the ground, look around and think they've got a suitable fire break, light it up, burn it down and away they go.

"But they need to look at the weather forecast for wind, or stay with it and then get some water and put it out.

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Queenstown scrub fire extinguished

"You don't just light it and then let God take over from there."

A woolshed and the first truck Mills ever owned, a Toyota that had been parked out the back of the property for years, were lost in the fire. But the old wooden house and outbuildings survived, as did neighbouring properties.

An aerial view of the Skippers Canyon, Queenstown, scrub fire that burnt its way across 148ha. Photo / Paul Taylor
An aerial view of the Skippers Canyon, Queenstown, scrub fire that burnt its way across 148ha. Photo / Paul Taylor

Mills, who has owned the property since 1992, said: "It was like Vietnam. There were helicopters everywhere in the sky, I don't know how many people here.

"It was lucky to save it [the house]."

A break of green grass surrounding the property helped to save it.

Four crews of four firefighters returned to the site yesterday to monitor hot spots.

Mills, whose father was a volunteer firefighter, praised the crews.

"They had it nailed, the communications, everything."

The helicopters were from Queenstown's private tourism firms.

"There were a number of companies here - it's about proximity, who's available and what skilled pilots and equipment are available," Glenorchy Rural Fire Safety Officer Will McBeth said.

Only a few metres of grass separates Mr Mills' house at Deep Creek from the fire line. Photo / Paul Taylor
Only a few metres of grass separates Mr Mills' house at Deep Creek from the fire line. Photo / Paul Taylor

"It was a great success last night.

"It's a fairly remote area, in terms of accessing with the vehicles - an extra challenge for the large appliances.

"The swimming pool was used as a water resource, which was a great help, the appliances have water on board, we bring in the tankers, and then the helicopters really knock it down as well.

"We're here today just mopping up to make doubly sure we don't have to come back again."

Skippers Rd was closed during the operation but reopened on Sunday.