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FIRES ALONG THE MANAWATU LINE. MANY MILES' OF COUNTRY BURNING.

THE MAKERUA FLAX LANDS IN DANGER. .WISE PRECAUTIONS. [By Telegraph.] (From Out Special Reporter.) SHANNON, This Day. From Waikanae to Shannon and further north the , whole country bide is burning — not in one seething mass, but at irregular intervals. The land here is much the same "as that which was swept by fire in the Wairarapa district some four or five weeks ago. It is not heavily timbered, but large areas are strewn with old and half rotten logs and stumps, which, in their dried state, make fierce fuel for the flames. Travelling up in the train last night it was diificult to ascertain anything of ii very definite character regarding the losses suffered by settlers. At Waikanae it was reported that three or four farmers had seen their homes destroyed, and at Otak' and Levin more damage was reported. The greatest losses, will be occasioned through the destruction of grass and the consequent forced sales of stock. It was at Kaputoroa (a few miles south of Shannon), however, that the fires were fiercest last evening. As the train raced along the swampy flats huge stretches of fire could be seen drifting down from the Tararuas. In one place the fire had eaten .its way to within 500 or 600 yards of the railway line. From information sent ■ through yesterday, it might be imagined that the railway line was in danger, but this is quite erroneous. Constable Bree, of Shannon, travelled right down from Longburn by the express yesterday, and he informed The ,fost reporter that the possibility of damage to the Manawatu Company's property is rather remote. Yesterday several settlers in this district had to remove their flocks from -the high country along the Tararuas. Mustering has been general in many places, and this wise precaution has saved many sheep. THE FLAX LANDS. But it is in relation to the flax lands here that the greatest anxiety is being felt. There is fir© practically everywhere in the high country, and nobody can say what moment the flames may appear in the flax lands. Seifert's new null here employs upwards of 200 hands, and every one of them during the past two days has done patio! duty. The mill ceased working yesterday in order that all hands might go on watch in regular relays. Mr. Webb, one" of Messrs. Seifert's managers, told me last evening that he had thirty -five- men posted along "•■the- edge of the swamp for the night in case flames made their appearance , amongst, the flax. If this flax country — well known as " the * Makerua swamp — is destroyed it ■would mean an enormous loss. The Seiferts have an aiea of about 4400 acres, which, for flaxmilling purposes, can be valued at anything from £25 to £3C per aci-el A modest estimate •of •the total value would be- something over '"£lOO,OOO, And if the fire once gets "into the flax the chances of coping with it will be very small indeed. ' ' Some flax on land owned by Dr. Chappie, of Wellington, is alight, but it is being carefully watched, and as a .creek — which has been hastily dammed vp — runs between it and the more valuable flax land on the doctor's property, there appears to be no immediate danger" of a serious outbreak in this direction. - Sparks, however, constitute an everpresent danger. They are carried on the wings of the wind for miles, and a fire may break out at any moment where least expected. Some of Seiferts' men have been detailed to patrol .the .country along the railway line after ,each train passes, in case of a spark from the engine igniting the dry • vegetable matter "which is strewn everywhere. I -* Fortunately the wind last evening was very mild, but at the time of writing ! (8 a.m.) it had freshened, and must make the task of the army of watchers to-day a very arduous one. Some fifty labourers employed by Mr. Voss, who has a big drainage contract in hand, had to hastily strike camp ~ yesterday, and flee from the fire. The men were employed draining tlie flax country, but their camp was situated on the higher ground. DANGER TO. THE SWAMP PAST. FIGHTING THE FIRES. THE METHODS ADOPTED. [By Telegeafh.— Special to The Post.] SHANNON, This Day. The Post representative paid a visit to Makerua this morning and collected the latest particulars regarding the fires. It i& pleasing to be able to record that the danger of the whole flax swamp being swept by fire has passed. Mr. Sherman (one of A. L. Seifert's foremen), states that the- danger yesterday mas very real. At ono time it looked as if the scutching house and, in fact, the entire milling plant at JSorth Shannon would go, but gangs of men worked unceasingly and succeeded in beating back the flames. The circumstance which gave rise to the report that the whole flax swamp was ablaze was the tact that fire had broken out in Greig's flax land at a point near Tokomaru. Mr. Greig at * once mustered all his men, but 150 acres of standing tax were destroyed before , the last evidence of lire was suppressed. If this outbreak haii got thu nppbi nand there is not the slightest doubt that the ' whole vast area of ilax, worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds, would havo been rendered useless for commercial purposes L'ven now the proprietors of various mills in this district do not know what moment they may have to deal with another outbreak. EXTRAORDINARY PRECAUTIONS Extraordinary precautions have been taken to avcit damage. Hundreds of men are doing nothing else but watching and patrolling by night and resting in relays during the day. All the buckets in Shannon were bought up days ago and columns of these utensils, stuck one inside the other, are arriving from the city by each train. THE BUCKET BRIGADES. Mr. Sherman told me that hundreds of buckets are kept filled with water and kept in reserve at different points to diench the fir|t feign of lire amongst tho fi.ix. The fire fighters also conceived the idea of making flails out of fork handles and thongs of stout leather tacked to the end. With this primitive but handy weapon they attack the amouldering fires in the flax lands, and a very 'useflul instrument the flail has pioved to be. Asked if they thought there would be further trouble, both herman and Webb (Siefert's foremen) stated they thought the fires had now bsen mastered. Fortunately, water is not scarce in the creeks and drains, and these are now being blocked up as an additional precaution. " The buckets and flails in the hands of •willing employees are the best friends the millers have. There is absolutely no hope, however^ of totally extinguish-

ing the fires. A good downfall of rain is the only thing that will accomplish this. > NO DAMAGE TO RAILWAY. An engineer on the Manawatu railway stated that no damage- had been done to the line; a few sleepers were singed, but that was all. In places fencing has been destroyed,' but this is not very serious. Tho flaxmilleTS between Tokomaru and Shannon have no fear now of the fire going right through the swamp. They say a careful watch is all tnat is required. SITUATION LESS SERIOUS IN TARANAKI. [D 7 TELEGRAPH. — PRESS ASSOCIATION.] NEW PLYMOUTH, This Day. Owing to the absence of wind the. situation with respect to the fires is much less serious to-day. Settlers are taking advantage of the hill to make such preparations as are Cossible for stalling off a renewed out-r-eak if it occurs. There is no sign of rain yet. HUNDREDS OF SHEEP AND CATTLE ROASTED. [Br Telegraph —Special to Tiie Post.] TAIHAPE, This Day. Ohakune advices this afternoon are to the effect that fires are burning all round. No further damage is reported. Settlers at Ohakune and on the Rae-tihi-road lost heavily on Tuesday night. Hundreds of sheep and cattle have been' roasted.

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19080220.2.85

Bibliographic details

FIRES ALONG THE MANAWATU LINE. MANY MILES' OF COUNTRY BURNING., Evening Post, Volume LXXV, Issue 43, 20 February 1908

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FIRES ALONG THE MANAWATU LINE. MANY MILES' OF COUNTRY BURNING. Evening Post, Volume LXXV, Issue 43, 20 February 1908

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