A "tricky" scrub fire in Atiamuri took firefighters over five hours to fully extinguish. The one-acre fire on Nicholson Rd, Atiamuri was reported at 2.30pm yesterday. One helicopter, four fire trucks from Rotorua and two tankers from Ngongotahā and Lake Ōkareka, battled the blaze. A Fire and Emergency media spokesman said the location was "tricky" and crews were on site until 8pm. No one was injured.
The high risk of fire has prompted the closure of the Tarawera Forest to the public until further notice just days before the area's biggest running event. The closure included Mt Putauaki, Tarawera Outlet and the popular Tarawera Falls. The Tarawera Ultra Marathon will still go ahead, however, no permits for personal vehicle access in the forest will be issued. Yesterday a prohibited fire season was declared for Central Lakes, Bay Of Plenty Coast and Pumicelands.
All fire permits have been suspended in the area as the fire was is too high, principal rural fire officer Steve Webb said. During a prohibited fire season only gas and charcoal barbecue's can be used. Hangi was still allowed, but people must contact Fire and Emergency NZ when planning one so additional protection can be put in place. Webb said it was vitally important that people understand the risks. In extreme conditions, it only takes a spark to start a devastating wildfire. That spark can come from a piece of equipment such as a lawnmower, or a grinder, welding or a plough, he said. "To protect your home, keep roofs and gutters clear of dead leaves, debris and pine needles. Move anything that could burn away from exterior walls, decks or porches."
If the current conditions persist there may be a requirement to prohibit any activities that may cause fires to start. Yesterday, Fire and Emergency NZ advised that the fire danger level had been raised to "Very High" in Kawerau.
The Tarawera Ultra Marathon will be held on Saturday, and shuttles will be used to transport participants through the forest.