A national rural fire incident management team will arrive today to assist teams battling a large fire in a forestry block near Dunedin.
By late last night the fire had destroyed more than 700ha of forestry land and it is expected to take days to contain it and weeks or months to subdue hotspots.
At least 10 helicopters spent yesterday attacking the blaze in Wenita Forestry’s Mount Allan Forest, about 10km north of Mosgiel and 20km northwest of Dunedin.
A fixed-wing aircraft dumped fire retardant on the flames, where possible, and a ditch-digger worked on creating firebreaks.
Rural firefighters from Wenita and the Dunedin City Council were on stand-by near the fire, because it was still too dangerous for them to fight the fire from the ground.
Helicopters fly through the MT Allan Wenita Forest Fire on Wednesday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Council principal rural fire officer Graham Still said by 9pm the fire was still moving, but had slowed considerably.
The fire was in both trees and logged areas.
The past two days had been “bad days”, but his main concern now was the westerly winds expected today, which could push the fire into more vegetation.
Glenn Mitchell, from the council’s emergency operations centre, said the fire was left to burn last night, to rest crews.
One helicopter remained on site, ready to fly, fitted with night-vision equipment, in case of any flare-ups.
The national incident team, of about four experienced rural firefighters, would arrive this morning to assist with fire management and provide relief cover for Dunedin crews.
Council civil defence and rural fire manager Neil Brown said a “handful” of people from three homes on the eastern side of the fire, and two about 5km south of the fire front, had been evacuated.
The evacuations were precautionary, and were carried out only because staff did not want people trying to move out in the dark.
Planning for the evacuation of other North Taieri homes had also been completed, although it was unlikely it would be required, he said.
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