NZ Local News

Battle against Glenorchy blaze continues as wind gusts threaten

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The fire burning above the Glenorchy road. Photo / Fenz

Six helicopters and seven ground crews are working to contain the vegetation fire above Glenorchy Rd near Queenstown.

The fire started near Mount Crichton on Friday afternoon, and by yesterday evening it covered about 200 hectares.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Incident Controller Mark Mawhinney this morning said that weather conditions were favourable overnight.

A reconnaissance flight at first light showed the fire had burnt an estimated 200ha of manuka and tussock grassland.

Photo / Reuben Wishart
Photo / Reuben Wishart

Mawhinney said most of the affected area was on Mt Crichton Station, and Fenz was working with the farmer to ensure stock was safe.

He said no structures were affected but some fences had been burnt. The fire had also reached an area managed by the Department of Conservation.

Winds were forecast to increase through the day with gusts up to 80km/h, so firefighting efforts were concentrating on containing the fire to the 25 Mile Creek catchment and creating a blacked-out perimeter, to reduce the risk of a breakout later in the day.

Officials yesterday said anyone affected by smoke or ash should keep doors and windows closed, and people experiencing health issues should contact Healthline in the first instance.

On Friday Fenz said the blaze, which at one stage had flames up to 30 metres high, forced the closure of the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy, had been brought under control.

But the fire was no longer under control yesterday afternoon, with smoke spreading across the Queenstown area and Fenz calling for backup.

An update at 6pm yesterday from Fenz stated that the fire was about 200ha. Fenz said eight helicopters were battling the blaze, along with four ground crews.

Smoke is seen coming over the hills from a large fire at Mt Creighton, Glenorchy. Photo / Regan Wagteveld
Smoke is seen coming over the hills from a large fire at Mt Creighton, Glenorchy. Photo / Regan Wagteveld

Queenstown resident David Smith said the smoke had progressively been getting worse in his suburb and now he could barely see anything.

“There’s thick brown smoke coming over the back of Fern Hill, over the Ben Lomond summit,” he said.

He believed the source was coming from over the hills towards Glenorchy.

“You literally cannot see any mountains from the town, you can’t even see Walter Peak, if there’s this much smoke there’s definitely a big fire,” Smith said.

Fenz advised anyone impacted by the smoke or ashfall to close their doors and windows and call Healthline if they experience any health issues.

– Cas Saunders/additionally reported by RNZ

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