25 Oct 2009

Fire crews put out Southland scrub fire

5:37 am on 25 October 2009

A fire that burned through almost 1000 hectares of land on the Tiwai Peninsula in Southland was put out on Saturday, 24 hours after it began.

The fire ripped across conservation land, destroying protected red tussock and other native plants.

Rural Fire Officer Sue Peterson says the fire crews were checking the perimeter of the fire on Saturday to ensure there would be no flare-ups overnight.

It is thought to have been accidentally started by a contractor working near the Rio Tinto aluminium smelter on Friday afternoon.

Four helicopters using monsoon buckets tackled the blaze that began about 4.30pm on Friday and quickly spread along a long, thin front.

By Saturday morning, 930 hectares of scrub and tussock on Department of Conservation land between Awarua Bay and the sea had been burnt.

Sue Peterson says the flames had reduced in height from five metres on Friday to between three and four metres on Saturday.

She says the damage to protected flora on the peninsula will be extensive.

At its height the blaze could be clearly seen from Invercargill, about 20km away.