Fernhill bush fire ‘suspicious’


Helicopters were turned back from a suspicious fire in the forested hills above Queenstown just after midnight – a blaze which might have eventually threatened Skyline’s gondola building.

“The best Christmas present is that it didn’t go anywhere,” Otago Rural Fire Authority deputy principal rural fire officer Jamie Cowan says.

Queenstown’s fire crews were called to Fernhill’s Bird Place at about 12.15am.

Senior station officer Dave Christie says: “We just got here and we saw flames up the side of the hill there.”

Three Queenstown fire units were helped by benign winds and relatively cool conditions.

“We had it knocked back within five minutes,” Christie says.

Fire crews were mobilised from as far away as Alexandra and Kingston.

Police – who were earlier proactively warning nearby residents of the fire – took away burnt material, which Mr Christie described as “paperwork”.

Police are now investigating the fire’s cause.

Fire Authority’s Cowan says helicopters were inbound when fire volunteers doused the blaze and had to be turned back.

“We believe the fire was a suspicious fire.

“The Fire Service made a very good early save and managed to get it contained really quickly.”

He says the fire was started near houses but never threatened them.

“Our main risk from here is uphill to the gondola.”

The burnt area – which measures about 30 square metres – is being monitored overnight.