Closeburn blaze: quick-thinking locals praised

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A Queenstown rural fire officer says the quick response of locals last night prevented a blaze in Closeburn from doing serious damage. 

Several houses were evacuated as a precaution while two helicopters and four fire service appliances battled a scrub fire which started about 6.10pm east of Closeburn. 

Flames came within 40 metres of one home, but DOC rural fire officer Jamie Cowan says the situation would’ve been a lot worse if the alarm hadn’t been raised straight away. 

The wet weather was also on the side of the firefighters, who brought the scrub fire – which reached 50m long and 5m wide – under control in an hour. 

The fire was sparked by a pine tree on private property being blown on to power lines by strong winds. 

“A very fast response from everyone involved meant we were able to stop it and the weather played a pretty vital role as well,” Cowan says. 

“If the conditions had been anything other than what they were – if we hadn’t had the heavy rain, the fire service hadn’t got to it as quickly as they did – the outcome would have been a whole lot different. 

“We would’ve had mass evacuations of that area.” 

Cowan says the reactions of Wilson Bay fire warden Brian McMillan, who kept the community and firefighters informed, were to be commended. 

The blaze-prone area is part of a high fire risk ‘red zone’ with set response procedures in place, Cowan says. 

This latest fire came within 500m of where a larger fire was stopped in October. 

Cowan estimates the cost of fighting the blaze will total between $5000 and $10,000 and a claim will be lodged with the National Rural Fire Authority to try to recover the money from the land owners. 

A claim for costs – between $40,000 and $50,000 – for October’s Closeburn fire is still being assessed by NRFA.