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Work begins to put out Owaka Pit fire

May 9, 2013

Work begins to put out Owaka Pit fire

Work began yesterday to put out the fire that has been burning at Owaka Pit in Wigram for the past six weeks.

The New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) considered that the fire had collapsed into itself to such an extent that it was now safe to begin the process of raking out the burning MDF and dousing it with water.

Environment Canterbury Compliance and Monitoring Manager Brett Aldridge says everyone has wanted the fire to be put out, but up to this point, doing so had been a safety issue.

“NZFS, Environment Canterbury, the Medical Officer of Health and the owner have been working collaboratively to mitigate the effects of the fire on surrounding neighbourhoods and businesses, and we have been controlling the fire to get to this point where we can start to put it out.

“While the fire has caused a nuisance, especially to residents, it has been a fine balancing act between the health risk to residents and the safety of those workers who have to work in dangerous conditions to put the fire out.

“Environment Canterbury has been monitoring the content of the smoke and the Medical Officer of Health has said that there has been minimal risk to human health during the fire.

“Of course we are all aware that is has been a difficult time for residents who have been affected by the smoke. We are just really pleased that now we can move ahead and get the fire out as soon and as safely as possible."

Assistant Area Commander Steve Kennedy says putting out the fire will be a “huge job".

“It has been frustrating for everyone waiting to get to this stage when we can move in the machinery to deconstruct the pile of burning material and to extinguish it. At this stage, we are not sure how long it will take to completely put it out, but we should have a better idea once we get further into the pile.

“But we have now started the process and will be moving as fast as is safely possible to put it out."

Questions have been raised about issuing an abatement notice. Under the Resource Management Act, an abatement notice is a tool used to enforce compliance with the act or to make someone do something in a specific time frame.

In this instance, the owner has undertaken every action possible and has done everything requested of him to try to put out the fire. We have no reason to believe this will not continue. If at any time we do believe an abatement notice is necessary, we will issue one.


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