Lake Ōhau Wildfire Investigation Report and Operational Review

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Lake Ōhau Wildfire Investigation Report and Operational Review

Fire and Emergency New Zealand received the first 111 call for the Lake Ōhau fire around 3am on 4 October 2020. Fanned by severe winds, the fire swept across country and through the Lake Ōhau Village, destroying 48 homes and buildings, and damaging 5043 hectares of land, making it one of New Zealand’s most significant wildfires in recent history.

It took nine days to completely put out the fire. At the peak of the fire there were 11 helicopters and more than 100 people deployed to support the response.

Fortunately, no lives were lost thanks to quick actions from residents of the Lake Ōhau Village who enacted the community’s wildfire plan, as well as the swift response and evacuations by the Twizel and Omarama Volunteer Fire Brigades and local Police. Their bravery and actions undoubtedly saved lives and several properties that would otherwise have been destroyed.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Wildfire Investigation Report into the Lake Ōhau fire

Specialist fire investigators undertook a comprehensive investigation to determine the origin and cause of the fire.

They determined the fire was accidental and caused by an electrical short circuit on a power pole several kilometres upwind of the village, which ignited dry vegetation below the powerline.

The investigation found the cause of the fire was a cross-arm coming loose on a power pole. The loose cross arm touched a metal stay arm which resulted in an arc or repeated arcs between the powerline, metal stay arms, bolts and the pole. This eventually caused molten aluminium, steel or concrete to fall to the ground igniting the vegetation below.

The power pole was in a section of powerlines crossing conservation land approximately two and a half kilometres north-west of Lake Ōhau Village.

The investigation found vegetation, terrain, high temperatures and severe winds contributed to the rapid spread of this fire towards the Lake Ōhau village and surrounding countryside.

View the full Investigation report

Operational Review – Lake Ōhau

Fire and Emergency commissioned an operational review into the Lake Ōhau fire to provide the opportunity to see any areas for improvements and learn more about managing wildfires in areas where there is a high wildfire risk.

We are committed to continuous improvement and commission these types of reviews regularly when there have been significant or unusual events.

The review praised the fire crews and residents for their fast actions in the face of fire conditions rarely seen in New Zealand. It also found the incident was well-managed and had good strategies to ensure throughout the response, the priority was always those people impacted by the fire.

Read the full Operational Review

Lake Ōhau Fire – a Summary of Events

The information for The Lake Ōhau Fire – a Summary of Events was compiled from the Fire and Emergency NZ Wildfire Investigation Report into the Lake Ōhau Fire and the  Operational Review – Lake Ōhau and is not intended to be used for evidential purposes.

 

 

Read the full Operational Review [link].