Waiharara fire – 5 January update

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Waiharara fire – 5 January update

Firefighters have now been working on the fire at Waiharara in the Far North for 19 days. 

Today, there are 55 firefighters, six dozers and diggers, and four helicopters working to ensure the 2400-hectare fire doesn’t escape its containment lines.  

Fire crews will be covering the priority areas on all four flanks of the fire.  

Incident Controller John Sutton says crews have done a great job of stopping the fire from spreading. However, the hot, dry conditions have increased the potential risk of the fire spreading.  

“When the fire first started, it stopped when it reached the grass. Now, the grass is much dryer, and could quickly burn if the fire reaches grass. So, it is important we protect the boundary between the fire line and the grass,” he says.  

“Fire and Emergency personnel are working alongside personnel from Department of Conservation, New Zealand Defence Force and forestry contractors,” he says. 

Sutton acknowledges the support from the wider community, Ngāi Takoto, as well as the hapu and whanau of Kaimaumau.  

“We are really thankful to the local orchardists and landowners who have given us access to their irrigation water and have allowed to create access ways through their properties,” he says.  

There are several important cultural and ecological sites within the fire boundary and firefighters are focused on protecting those.  

“Crews have been working hard to ensure the historical elements of the area, plus the village and farms are protected from the fire,” John Sutton says.  

“We also have firefighters patrolling the area at night to help protect sensitive areas,” he says.  

“A key part of our work is using USAR drones to check for hotspots at night, as this helps to focus our firefighting efforts during the day. Drones also allow us to get an understanding of a substantial and complicated fire ground,” John Sutton says.