Blaze might have threatened lodge

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Extinguished: The tools used to put out a forest fire near Queenstown

A fire in a Queenstown forest on Saturday was “within minutes” of becoming a major blaze threatening a luxurious lodge.

The fire started at 2pm near Matakauri Lodge, off Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd, after hot ashes were placed on a rubbish heap.

The five-star lodge is about 10km from last week’s huge forest fire, which burned through 150ha of native scrub above Rat Point before it was brought under control.

Saturday’s blaze was initially fought by people on the scene using 16 fire extinguishers.

Twenty-five firefighters, four helicopters, several fire appliances and water tankers and the Alexandra Command Unit were all scrambled to help. Queenstown’s fire brigade was first on the scene and extinguished the 10m-by-10m fire.

Otago Rural Fire deputy principal fire officer Jamie Cowan says: “Another five to 10 minutes and the fire would have been unstoppable.

“It most likely would have spread very quickly throughout the Wilson’s Bay and Alpine Retreat area.”

The fire was on land off the Matakauri Lodge access road in an area of wilding pines, near  some maintenance huts.

Cowan says police were on stand-by to evacuate the lodge but that wasn’t required. Lodge management were approached for comment but didn’t respond.

Cowan confirms the fire was caused by hot-ash disposal.

“Due to the nature of the terrain, in the wilding pines right in the middle of the red zone, with very strong winds predicted, we went to a high-level response,” he says.

However, the local residents had done a good job of slowing the fire with fire extinguishers before the first appliance from Queenstown arrived and put it out.

Cowan says the other resources were turned back.

It was the beginning of the fire season in the Lakes district, and while fires are allowed by permit, the situation would be reviewed daily, he says.

Otago Daily Times