"A RAGING INFERNO"
A large area of beech forest, csti-j mated to -comprise several hundred, acres, was destroyed by the fire which started late on Friday night near the top of Mount Marchant, probably on Marchant Ridge The actual extent; of the' damage has not yet been ascertained. It seems certain that but for the southerly change of wind, followed by heavy rain, on Sunday morning a very large area of State forest would have been destroyed, as the forest floor was very dry and the moss in the trees was like tinder, the strong northerly under whicn the fire started carrying the sparks tar ahead of the blazing trees. Officers of the State Forest Service who visited the fire and returned to Wellington today are reluctant to give an estimate of the area damaged, but say that the forest along the Marchant Ridge for about a mile was destroyed. On the City Water Board's side there was not so' much damage, this being contributed to by the fact that the wind,' a strong northerly, was blowing uphill on that side, and flames had to work back downhill against the wind. Across the main ridge the fire followed chiefly the spurs, but though it went down them for some distance, it was not at the moment— though full investigation had not been made—considered that more than 500 acres had been burned, probably less. The patchy course taken by the fire made it hard to tell the approximate area affected. The strong wind lost its effect on the Tauherenikau side of Marchant Ridge, especially in the gullies. Like Mr. Perham, the State forestry officer who hastened to the fire,, warmly praised the efforts of the tramping clubs and volunteers. - No'sign of fire was visible on the ridge''up till 10 p.m. on Friday, but fire was seen there at 11 p.m. by an honorary ranger at Pakuratahi. Marchant Ridge is practically the boundary between the City and Suburban Water Supply Board's property arid the State forest in the Tauherenikau Valley. Mr. A. N. Perham, the board's forestry officer, who started off at 4 a.m. from his house at Upper. Hutt bn .Saturday, says that Mount Marchant was a. raging inferno, fire appearing in a number of places along the ridge. He informed the" State Forest Service, and invited the; assistance of the Tararua Tramping , Club. A party of twenty-four members, of this club was bound for its Tauherenikau hut, where for some time work has been done to protect the hut from river encroachment, ; and this party was diverted to Farm Creek, on'the Hutt Valley side of Marchant Ridge, to fight the flames, a small party being sent to the Tauherenikau Hut to cut a fire-break round it. With the members of the Tararua, Hutt Valley, and University Ruck. Sack Tramping Clubs and others who answered, the appeal, there were altogether about 60 fire fighters. A high tribute to the work of these volunteers is paid by Mr. Perham for their services from midday until well into the' evening. Mr. Perham did not consider the damage to the board's forest area extensive. Though trampers agree that the fire did not reach as far as it was-feared it would into the Smith's Creek and Tauherenikau Valley, there are reports of considerable damage. The flames reached to within 200 yards of Smith's Creek. Dobson's Hut, on the Marchant Ridge, was missed, as the spread of the flames -was patchy. ■■ ■.
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