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SPORTSMEN'S ESCAPE

STRUGGLE AHEAD OF FLAMES

O.C. AUCKLAND, This Day. A thrilling escape from the fires that have been raging in the Rotorua district was experienced by a party of four Auckland sportsmen, Flying .Officer Ralph Exton, Aircraftman Ivan Brewer, Messrs. Cecil George and T. R. Finlay, who were camped between .Lake Tarawera and the buried village of Te Wairoa. They set out lightly equipped from their camp, intent upon spending a full day of deer-stalking, through fern, scrub, and bush. At about 9 a.m. one of the party noticed a fire some distance off, but travelling rapidly through gorse and fern. Realising they were in danger of being cut off by the flames, the party fled as rapidly as possible. By 2.30 p.m. they had covered over 10 miles, and were very fatigued. One member of the party appealed to the others to go on and leave him, as he had reached the limit of endurance. The others helped him until he partly recovered. The flight was continued, the men shedding rucksacks, ammunition, and binoculars as they hurried from the path of the fire. Gorse and fern, dry as tinder after the dry weather, ignited close behind them. They were making roughly in the direction of Lake Tarawera, and began to feel easier in mind, although physically tired to the point of collapse, for they could get occasional glimpses of the lake. However, suddenly they reached the brink of a sheer cliff face 70 to 80 feet high. There was no time or place to scramble down, so the party changed direction, trying to get upwind from the flames. It was touch and go at times, scrambling over and through tangles of fern and manuka, until the leader literally fell on the roadway, and was soon followed by his three companions. : Great was their relief to find a ' motorist, Mr. S. Duncan, of Hamilton, just in the act of turning his car to flee from the advancing flames. Bundling all four into the car, Mr. Duncan hurried away to safety, reaching a camp where stimulants could be obtained. Mr. Duncan said that just as the men reached the road the flames leaped across the road to ignite the bush on the other side.

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SPORTSMEN'S ESCAPE Evening Post, Volume CXXXVII, Issue 7, 10 January 1944

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