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Second fire near Awarua Bay contained as flare-ups continue in main blaze

Fire crews have contained a second fire near Awarua Bay, south of Invercargill.

Smoke from a fire burning through 1000 hectares of manuka scrub and peat soils at Awarua, south of Invercargill, on 3 April, 2022.
The initial fire at Awarua Bay, which has now burned over more than 1300 hectares of land. Photo: Fire and Emergency NZ

The initial blaze at Awarua wetlands has been going for a week, burning through more than 1300 hectares.

This morning a car fire under a transmission line power pylon on Tiwai Road spread to dense mānuka scrub.

A helicopter and one crew were transferred to work on the fire before returning to the main fire.

Incident Controller Julian Tohiariki said the second fire was only contained thanks to quick work from Invercargill and Tiwai Point firefighters, and was being investigated.

Meanwhile, ground crews had faced challenging conditions this weekend as they continue to contain and suppress initial blaze.

Weather conditions were challenging this weekend and flare-ups were continuing around the area, Tohiariki said.

Tohiariki said the fire was contained within a 24km perimeter, but flare-ups were still occurring due to the large amount of flammable vegetation remaining.

A 50 metre wide control line has been established around 90 percent of the perimeter. Five crews worked on Sunday to extend that buffer in the remaining area to minimise the risk of any flare up breaking out of the perimeter.

They have also used hand tools and portable pumps to expose and extinguish hotspots identified by thermal imaging, with support from two helicopters.

Tohiariki reiterated calls for people to stay well away from the fireground, where hazards ranged from deep ash pits to smouldering peat beds.

"People may be thinking that it's safe to go there if they don't see flames and plumes of smoke, but this is still an active fire and our crews need to be able to concentrate on their task rather than worrying about people trying to access their maimais."

There is no public access to Awarua Bay Road past the intersection with Buddle Road, and there are signs at the boat ramps on the Waituna Lagoon advising that the wetland is closed to the public.

Weather permitting, drones will make another aerial assessment of the Awarua fireground tomorrow morning.