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FIRES IN THE CATL INS DISTRICT

Information reached Dunedin on the Ist to the effect that serious bush fires were raging in the Gatlins district. Mesere Latta Bros.' sawmills at Owaka Valley and Katea were on fire, but the latest news received stated that Owaka was 6afe. Owing to the extremely dry weather the fires in this district have been unuauaJly prevalent for some time past. Yesterday the fires extended over an area oT some miles in the Hunt's road and Katea districts, and the smoke was extremely dense. There are several homesteads in this locality, but so far ac could bo learned they had not been damaged by the flamee. In several instances lately, however, the settlers had had an anxious time, and on occasions they have found it necessary to stop up all night leet the firee should! destroy their dwellings, geverai bridges have been burned.

Another destructive bush fire was reported on the Ist, when it was stated that the bush in the vicinity of Kaka Point, Port Molyneux, was burning fiercely. It was rumoured that several seaside residences at Kaka. Point had been destroyed, and later information etajled that the conflagration was increasing in magnitude.

BUSH FUSES AT MOUNT CARGILL.

Thirty years ago Mount Cargill was clother to the summit with a dense forest very difficult to penetrate, the space beneath the trees being overgrown with rich mosses and other beautiful specimens of vegetable life. To-day this condition is largely changed, for some time about 1881 a considerable fire swept over the mountain, and in its destroying course many acres of this beautiful bush perished 1 . Of the socalled pines there were many varieties, perhaps the most common being the bog pine, or tarwood (Dacrydium Coleneoi) a, tree remarkable" on account of its exhibiting leaves of the most opposite appearance, as even on the same branch the young leaves will be found spreading in shape and half-an-inch in length, while the older ones are so closely placed that the branchlete seem to resemble strings of whipcord. The trunks of many of these trees, still standing erect, white and bare, afford an idea of the former extent of the forest, more especially if a visit be paid to the bush lying at the back of the hill the larger portion of which escaped untouched. Acting under the provisions of " The Scenery Preservation Act, 1903," the Government lately acquired, through the medium of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, an area of about 350 acres of land at Mount Cargill. This includes the summit, Butlar's Peak, Mourit Holmes, Mount Sion, and a small unnamed hill tp the north-east of those mentioned. Mount Holmes, which is situate nearest to tho Mount Cargill school, and therefore furthest away from Dunedin, has been formed by an extraordinary outcrop of rock, the basaltic columns of which can be reached by a short walk from the main north road without having to traverse any of the bush. It is muoli to be regretted that this summer has again witnessed a further destruction of the Native forest. For some weeks past small fires have been seen near the main peaks, and there is little room to doubt that these outbreaks were the result of carelessness or worse on the part of visitors to the hill. Only a week back some person kindled a fire" at Mount Holmes, which, although confined to a email area, is still burning. The worst fire, however, has apparently spread from some land to the north-west of ' the mountain, and, after creeping round the face nearest Dunedin, has swept bare the new growth which hai formed at the foot of Buttar's Peak. On Saturday a clump of dead timber containing much scrubby undergrowth was burning fiercely somewhat at the back of the hill. None of these fires, however, as far as present damage only is taken into account, is so regrettable as the fact that the sparks were carried on through the old burnt belt of timber until the fire broke through at the Main road between the dwellings of two of tho settlers— Messrs Souquct and Lock wood — the former of these losing an acre or two of bush and also suffering from the grass being fired. The steep bluff facing the xoad at this point is known as Mount Sion, and constitutes a notable landmark oi the Dunedin-Waitati road. The surrounding cedars and green shrubs gave it a. beautiful setting, but the effect of the flames has been to leave only a bare faco of rock not likely to naturally reclothe itself for at least another half century. This fire now seems to be dying out, and if it spreads no further the damage will be confined to a few acres in extent. It is to be hoped also that the fires at tho summit will not extend into the interesting bush lying at the back of the hill, about 80 acres of which farm part of the scenic reserve.

When it is stated that, as there is no water available for the purpose, some hours of effort are required to extinguish a few burning log?, it will readily be seen that nothing can fhock the destruction once the fire obtains a complete hold. The bush is full of dry moss, and the soil, being of a turfy nature in parts, burns easil.v to a depth of one foot. Looking towards the head of the Waitati a great pall of smoke extends over the hillsides, showing the large extent of country at present affected by bush fires. It would be well jf it could bo ini»res*ocl on everyone vi'iting the bu-h m tho vicinity of the absolute necessity of caution in lighting any fire. It seems to be customary even when kindling a few sticks to boil the billy to leave the fire to extinguish itself, and cases are not unknown whoro the fire is deliberately caused to spread regardless of consequences. It niav not l-o known generally that the Kcenic Preservation v Act provides for the enforcing of a heavy penalty against any person who lights any fire witliin the boundaries of a scenic reserve. Wo understand that the Commissioner of Crown Lands (Mr D. Barron), acoompaniod by an officer of his department, paid a visit to Mount Cargil! on Saturday with a view of seeing whether any steps could be taken to prevent the further spread of the fire, but it was seen that this was practically impossible. The fire, however, aeem«d to be expiring in the

area near the roadline, but it will probably smoulder and burn for some little time, unless long-looked-for rain should arrive and effectually quench it.

DARGAVILLE, January 31. The People's Reserve, of 50 acres, at Kaihu, studded with immense and valuable kauri trees, is on fire, which has spread from the adjoining opening fern country. A large body of men are engaged fighting the flames, but the park appears to be doomed.

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FIRES IN THE CATLINS DISTRICT Otago Witness, Issue 2760, 6 February 1907

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