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Upper Waitaki Fire Update #1

Firefighters supported by three helicopters are working to bring a large grass fire under control near Lake Benmore in the Upper Waitaki area of Otago.

At this stage no homes or structures are reported to have been damaged or to be at risk.

Fire and Emergency Assistant Commander Jason Sarich said the crews were working hard and quickly to slow the spread of the fire. It has estimated to have burned an area up to 1km long by 50 metres wide.

Volunteer Fire Brigades from Twizel, Omarama, Otematata and Lake Tekapo have all responded to the fire.

Jason Sarich said the initial reports suggested that the fire had been sparked by farm machinery but there would be further discussions with the landowner to confirm the circumstances. He has asked all farmers and contractors in the area to be aware of the high fire danger because routine activities could cause a spark that would easily set the grass on fire.

If machinery work couldn’t be deferred then it was best to carry out operations in the early morning, when the temperature is lower and the humidity was higher.

The whole of the Mackenzie Basin, including the Upper Waitaki area where the fire started, is in a prohibited fire season, which means there is a complete ban on outdoor fires.

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