Cecil Peak station boss: ‘We got lucky with fire’

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The manager of a Wakatipu station is relieved a large fire didn’t happen weeks ago in warmer weather.

Cecil Peak Station manager Philip Rive is thankful the fire which he estimated burnt up to 10ha on the lower slopes of the peak on Sunday night did not occur a fortnight ago when the weather was warmer. 

If it had, Rive says the fire ”would have spread right up that hill”.

”We’re pretty lucky.”

The land is used for grazing but all stock was shifted in January. Rive is hopeful it’ll recover quickly with fertiliser and seed.

Senior constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, yesterday says two men seen speeding away in a small boat after the fire began have been spoken to.

”They denied any involvement,” Blackford says.

Rive says ”mistakes and accidents do happen” but his message to anyone invovled in an accidental fire was ”you’re better off making a call [for help] straight away”.

”If we had have been half an hour earlier we could have had it out.”

Instead, the remote fire, which began after 8pm, was deemed too dangerous for fire crews to fight in the dark and was left to burn into the night.

It was still burning at 10pm.

However, apart from hot spots yesterday morning, the fire had burnt itself out. Rive is grateful for the effect of the dew on the ground.

”That’s what really stopped it.” 

Rive says a marginal strip of land at the base of Cecil Peak, administered by the Department of Conservation, was a popular picnic spot.

”It’s great to see people being able to use and enjoy that.” 

Rive was ”sure the fire wasn’t deliberately lit”.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key unveiled a high-altitude golf green on Cecil Peak, but a statement from Over the Top Golf said the par-3 golf hole – at 4500 feet up – was “well above” the fire.

Two rural fire crews from the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Doc, supported by two helicopters, finished dampening down hot spots yesterday.

Doc incident controller Mark Mawhinney says the area will continue to be monitored.

Warm weather is forecast to continue for several days.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are continuing.

Both Doc and the council issued a reminder that a is in place across the Queenstown Lakes District, which effectively rules out all open campfires. – Otago Daily Times