18 Mar 2010

Kerikeri blaze knocks out power

1:39 pm on 18 March 2010

Firefighters have managed to control a big scrub fire in the Far North that cut power to thousands of residents.

The fire, which forced the evacuation of Kerikeri airport five kilometres to the west, is now contained within a 50-hectare area.

Residents in and around Kerikeri lost power three times between 2.30pm and 6.30pm on Wednesday when the fire threatened two 53,000-volt lines supplying the area.

Power company Top Energy said on Wednesday the region was running on a single line and line crews were working to restore the other.

Chief executive Russel Shaw said the cuts affected more than 10,000 residents.

The Fire Service said the blaze quickly spread across scrub land at the back of the airport and came right up to the edge of the runway.

Airport buildings had to be evacuated, and light planes moved from hangars.

Firefighters suspect the fire started with a spark from a power line, but are still to determine the cause.

They say the blaze had the potential for disaster, in tinder-dry drought conditions.

Fire crews left the scene at 1am on Thursday and Department of Conservation and council workers remained at the scene on Thursday, hosing down hot spots.

Four helicopters and 10 fire crews using heavy machinery managed to control the fire within a 50 hectare area.

Coromandel power cut

Meanwhile, electricity has been restored to homes affected by a power cut on the Coromandel Peninsula.

The power supply to 12,500 customers in and around the towns of Tairua, Whitianga and Coromandel township failed just before 4pm on Wednesday.

PowerCo says the failure was the result of a fault in a 66,000 volt feeder line and staff were working on repairs.