Major blaze averted

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A major fire at the Cape Wanbrow reserve has been narrowly averted, according to loggers working at the site.

Brian and Daniel Presnall arrived at work yesterday morning to find that people had allegedly ignored “keep-out” signs and lit a large bonfire in an old gun emplacement.

The blackened remains revealed the flames had been licking the overhead structure and the heat had even caused some displacement.

“They set a fire with road cones, built a fire with branches and cones and lit it,” Brian

Presnall said.

“With these dry conditions one spark could have sent the whole reserve up.”

His son Daniel said the culprits might not have been aware that they could easily have been caught in any possible blaze.

“They’re risking their lives doing this,” he said.

Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine shared the Presnalls’ concerns.

“It’s very irresponsible action by the parties concerned. A fire could have spread which

could have been a major conflagration risking houses bordering the area.”

He said dry weather during the past few weeks meant any fires near brush assisted by strong winds could prove devastating.

Beer bottles and burnt out fireworks were located around the site of the blaze.

“The gates are locked and there’s a lot of signage telling people to keep out but they’ve disregarded them,” Brian Presnall said.

The Presnalls found also that signs had been pulled down and twisted. This was not the first time this had happened since they started working in the reserve early last month.

As well as damaged signs and some damage to one of their vehicles, the Presnalls have also found members of the public have been ignoring the keep-out signs and walking their dogs in the reserve, in spite of the risks.

They said the site was extremely dangerous.

“When the wind gets up they (the trees) are very unstable. They’re shallow rooted and it doesn’t take much to knock them over,” Brian Presnall said.

Constable Ruth Perham, of the Oamaru Police, said it was probable the same group of young people were entering the reserve causing the trouble. Inquiries are continuing.

 

By CHRIS TOBIN