Huge scrub fire near Queenstown


Glenorchy has been cut off by a major scrub fire burning out of control near Queenstown this morning.

The small southern settlement at the foot of Lake Wakatipu is without power and road access as a fire, which started about 11pm on Tuesday, burns on both sides of Glenorchy Rd.

Deputy Rural Fire Officer Jamie Cowan, of the Otago Rural Fire Authority, said this morning that several helicopters and 50 firefighters were battling the fire, which started by the lake at Rat Point.

The fire had crossed the road and was now burning across an estimated 50ha of scrub and trees up Jessie Peak, above the Glenorchy Rd.

Residents of the small communities at Bob’s Cove and Closeburn Station, about 2km away, have been put on alert as firefighters tackle the blaze from the air and ground.  However, its progress has slowed and no evacuations were required.

Fire crews from Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Queenstown, Luggate, and Alexandra have been brought in to tackle the blaze. Seven helicopters were deployed from daybreak.

Mr Cowan said the Glenorchy Rd would remain closed indefinitely today, from Bob’s Point to Mt Creighton. At this stage there was no indication of how long it will be before power could be restored to Glenorchy.

“We are hitting it hard with all the resources we have available because the forecast is for winds to pick up this afternoon, with no rain expected before midnight tonight.”

He estimated the fire could take three to five days to put out.

Once the fire is out in the immediate vicinity of the Glenorchy Road, the road and the slope above would be inspected to ensure no rocks or debris had been dislodged.

Mr Cowan anticipated the road could reopen this afternoon. In the meantime, access to Glenorchy was by boat across Lake Wakatipu.