14 Feb 2009

Chairlift threatened by fire

11:25 am on 14 February 2009

The chairlift is threatened by fire at the Whakapapa skiifield on Mt Ruapehu.

A cafe and workshop there were burned down overnight.

Police in Palmerston North say fire crews are fighting to save the chair lift on Saturday morning.

They are reportedly focusing on saving the building housing the chairlift.

The blaze started at about midnight and police are treating it as suspicious.

Due to lack of road access, fire crews had to wait until daylight to start tackling the blaze. Crews and equipment were airlifted into the area at around 7.15am on Saturday.

Water is being ferried from a nearby reservoir by a helicopter with a monsoon bucket.

Damage is so far estimated at $2 million and police say it could reach $4 million.

Police confirm the Knoll Ridge Cafe has burned down. The workshop held snow groomers, fuel and other ski equipment.

The road to the skifield is closed.