12 Jan 2017

Central Otago scrub fire: Power back, hotspots a threat

3:49 pm on 12 January 2017
Helicopters have been used to battle the Glenorchy blaze.

Helicopters battle the Glenorchy blaze. Photo: Supplied

Power has been restored to the Central Otago towns of Glenorchy and Kinloch after a major scrub fire incinerated 150 hectares of native bush.

Firefighters will head out again today to extinguish the fire, which started about 11pm on Tuesday in a well-known illegal camping spot at Rat Point, near the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

The blaze cut road access to Glenorchy for much of yesterday and destroyed about five power poles. Eight helicopters with monsoon buckets and 50 ground crews fought the blaze.

About 350 homes lost electricity.

Aurora Energy operations manager John Campbell said crews worked in challenging terrain and difficult weather conditions to get the power back on.

He said the section of network damaged by the fire was replaced.

While the fire was contained, there were still hotspots. Winds of up to 25 kilometres an hour were expected today.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council said it could take fire crews three to five days to completely extinguish the fire. Ground crews patrolled the area overnight.

The fire that has cut off access to the town of Glenorchy.

Photo: Queenstown Lakes District Council

Glenorchy Road resident Mark Scaife said there were constant problems with illegal camping and campfires at Rat Point, which was about 300 metres off the road.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said there were signs there forbidding the activities.

Police want information about anyone who was in the campsite area on Wednesday night.

Otago principal rural fire officer Phil Marsh warned campers not to light fires in the Queenstown-Lakes district.

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