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FIRES CHECKED

THE TAUPO DISTRICT

WIDE AREA DEVASTATED

O.C. AUCKLAND, January 6. Thousands of acres of scrub and partly-forested country have been swept by flames since small fires started on the north-western shores of Lake Taupo about three days ago. Fire broke out between Acacia Bay and the Maori pa opposite the Taupo township and in the intervening period has swept some 12 or 15 miles of country to a varying depth. 'It is under control, but not beaten. A sudden rise of wind may at any time fan it into a raging inferno. Up to the present the fire has consumed much of the vegetation on the north-western shore of Tapuaeharuru Bay, at the north end of Lake Taupo, as far as Rangatira Point, where it may burn out. , The banks of broom which terraced the roadsides from the Taupo area are burned out, the hills overlooking the Huka Falls are bare, and the famous pine grove of the picturesque Wairakei Valley is scorched and seared. Much of it is doomed. CAMPERS NEARLY TRAPPED. The flames gained their initial success in the vicinity of Acacia Bay, where they swept along the foreshore to destroy much of the attractive beach shelter. So quickly did the fire take command that campers, forced to pack hurriedly, found that egress by road was virtually impossible. Boats were scarce, and terrified women and children found refuge with their belongings in front of Mr. Downer's cottage, where at one stage huge sheets of flame, roaring across from the hills, threatened to engulf them. Men fought resolutely and campers' I effects were all saved, although one party had to submerge theirs in the lake to defeat the flames. Now the area is deserted and desolate. It was only by dint of assiduous effort by helpers who gathered from all parts that great loss of buildings and personal property was avoided. However, in spite of the efforts of a bulldozer, whose driver did valuable work in face of great, risks, the Wakeni an forestry plantation could not be saved from extensive damage. This area of some 200 acres was planted 29 years ago in pinus insignis and Oregon pine and formed a conspicuous feature of the lake shore. Over half of it has been destroyed. The fire swept through the insignis almost" like tinder, and the trees left are already turning that sickly colour so characteristic of burned forest. Although equally exposed to the flames, the Oregon pines, because of their denseness of "rowth, resisted the fire to a remarkable degree and today are oases of verdant green on the blackened hillsides. ■ SCENES AT WAIRAKEI. The fire reached its climax in the middle of this week, when it drove into the extensive natural pine plantations around the Wairakei Hotel Increasing in intensity with the heat ol the day and fanned by rising breezes, it licked through the undergrowth to devour tree after tree in an angry mass ° When the Wairakei Hotel was evacuated yesterday, fire, heat, and smoke obliterated the road and traffic was stopped. However, bus drivers made a gallant dash to bring their charges to The menace to Wairakei was serious up to about 2 o'clock this morning, but a change of wind and clever backburning averted the danger to the hotel. A powerful pump was brought from Strathmore camp and volunteers, manning the hoses, soaked water into the trees surrounding the buildings. Small fires burned all day in the vicinity, with an occasional flare-up, out these were quickly dealt with by the fire-fighters, who included a squad of 20 Maori soldiers brought from An inspection of the whole area late tonight showed the position to be well in hand. Wairakei is now clear of danger, unless a change of wind occurs. The 85 patients and six nurses who were evacuated from the Wairakei Mental Hospital yesterday and accommodated in Rickitt's Hall at .Taupo, were all returned to the hospital at five o'clock this afternoon. The fires which threatened the bpa Hotel, Taupo, and the Rotokawa forestry plantations appear to be out. The wind at present is from the north-west, very mild and tending to drive the fires away from the Taupo area to open country. Those who know Taupo scrub fires best say that only heavy rain can finally remove the dangers which still exist.

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FIRES CHECKED Evening Post, Volume CXXXVII, Issue 5, 7 January 1944

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