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SERIOUS FIRE

HUTT VALLEY HILLS

HUNDREDS FIGHT FLAMES Portable radio transmitters were used to maintain contact between the various groups that fought a serious .'fire which swept over the hills south of Silverstream on Sunday and yesterday, destroying many thousands of valuable pinus radiata trees and threatening the homes of residents in the district. Hundreds of soldiers assisted in attempting to quell the flames, which were well under control this' morning. The fire started on Sunday morning at a point on the railway line southwest of the disused brickworks. From there it swept up to the ridge top, then eastwards towards the large plantation at Pinehayen. Mr. P. L. Rochfort, forest ranger in charge of the plantations, at once organised forestry rangers, who, assisted by the Stokes Valley Fire Brigade, managed to get the fire under control by Sunday evening. Yesterday morning at 5 o'clock, however, the freshening wind fanned the flames, which jumped fire breaks and threatened the whole of the Pinehaven estate to such an extent that the owners of hundreds of homes which nestle among the trees were ordered to stand by in case the district had to be evacuated. The Army authorities were communicated with and the assistance of several hundred soldiers was quickly made available. These travelled in trucks to the nearest point by road, and then with slashers and other tools made their way up the various ridges in an organised effort to cut breaks, and, where possible, back fire the country in the face of the advancing flames. Mr. H. G. Hume, superintendent of the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade, was placed in command. Wireless communication was maintained with the various units, three transmitters being placed at vantage points on the highest ridge. About 7 a.m. yesterday the fire worked down the face of the first ridge immediately behind the old brickworks. The fire on this ridge, which had previously escaped, constituted a fresh danger to Pinehaven as it might have travelled eastward along the face of the ridge. It also endangered the home of Mr. McKenzie, caretaker of the brickworks. In consequence a fresh contingent of men had to be called up, as every gust of wind brought the flames roaring down towards the house and also towards the brickworks buildings. That fire was fought until midnight, and was finally mastered before it reached the house. During the early hours of the fire there was some fear that the hospital buildings on the rise above the main road might be endangered and again last night the fire was working back against the wind towards these buildings. The hospital was saved, however, by the fair amount of cleared space between it and the bush. Mr. Rochfort was loud in his praise of those who had come to his assistance, and.stated that if it had not been for the high wind the fire would have been rapidly controlled. Among the helpers who did excellent work were members of the Army, members of the staff of the Hutt Valley Power Board, the Wallaceville Government laboratory, the Forestry Department, and the Silverstream Fire Brigade, and residents of the district There were other smaller outbreaks further up the Valley, but without reports of serious consequences, while this morning the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade was engaged in suppressing a scrub fire which commenced low down on the Wainui-o-mata hills m the vicinity of the western entrance of the partly-completed tunnel, and swept up to the top of the hill. The fire was under control by 11 a.m.

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SERIOUS FIRE Evening Post, Volume CXXXVII, Issue 14, 18 January 1944

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