Monday, 2 February 2009

A Fire at Mahia: Update

Yesterday I mentioned the terrible fire at Mahia. Tonight it's 95% under control (whatever that means). Emergency services began fighting the flames in Opoutama in the Mahia Beach area late yesterday (Sunday) afternoon and it has taken all night and most of today to subdue. A long hot day became a flaming hot night as strong winds fanned fire across 140 hectares of grass and pine, forcing the evacuation of more than 170 locals. Locals described the fire as very frightening and just how frightening became obvious in the daylight. The twisted metal of the nine devastated dwellings are surrounded by a forest of black. Fifty farm houses and baches were evacuated as a precaution and 175 people took refuge at a nearby school. The cause of the fire is still being investigated and the cost of fighting it alone could reach as high as $500,000."We've got lots of expensive machinery involved, fire appliances people who have been dragged off leave on a Sunday. We've got helicopters which are not cheap to run so the bill adds up very, very quickly," says Malcolm Smith of the Department of Conservation. While the immediate danger of the fire has passed if you reach down and touch the ground or even a log you can feel the heat still coming out of it. That's why fire crews say they will be there for up to another three weeks ensuring there aren't anymore flare-ups. Long-time residents say there has not been a fire on this scale for years and its memory will last long after the smoke clears.

Compared with the fires of California and Eastern Australia this has been a mere pimple on the face of the countryside. But it's been very close to home and fairy traumatic. And there's nothing like things close to home to bring reality into one's life.

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