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RATANUI.

Febrnary 1. — The weather during the past month has not been all that could be desired from the settlers' point of view. There have T>een occasional showers throughout the month, Tout the moisture has been immediately dried up by high winds. The grass in consequence lias suffered severely, and there has been a serious falling-off in the cheese factory's milk supply. With all its drawbacks, however, the dry season has many redeeming points. All railway and road works have been going on without interruption, the sawmills have "been working full time and the roads just at present are all that could be desired. Bush Fifes. — Many years ago old settlers prophesied -that some time a dry season would come and that the Catlins district would he swept from end to end by fire 3. People at that time laughed at 'the idea, for a dry season in Catlins was considered impossible. Luckily, the prophesy has been long in coming to pass, and much of tho dead timber has been cleared away ; but on Friday, Ist February, the prophets were justified* and fierce fires raged over almost the whole of the district. A strong westerly gale sprang up in the early mornfng, and under its influence the fires spread with amazing rapidity. Those who have not seen » bush fire can scarcely realise the speed with which the fires travel in the clearings. Jn a district like this the fires are necessary to clear the ground ; but on this occasion they broke all bounds, and gave many a settler an anxious and perilous time. A sawmill at Houipapa, owned by Messrs Harland and Co., was completely burned out. It took 30 men from, the railway works to protect Mr M'Donald's house near by, and other houses had narrow escapes. At Ratanui the houses of Mr John Moir and Messrs Dawson and M'Kechnie and the latter'a sawmill were only saved by the generous he'.p of many neighbours. About 40 men and women turned out at the call of the mill whistle, and, though the fires burned right up to the walls of the buildings and the mill took fire several times, by dint of much hard work and plenty of water the houses and mill were saved. A considerable distance of tramway was burned, but the owners consider themselves lucky to get off so lightly. Many of the settlers over whose sections the fires passed will suffer severely from scarcity of feed for cattle. It will also be a big undertaking for many of them to sow such large areas down in grass, and to be a success this requires doing at once. Although in the course of a year the preesnt fires will result in material benefit to almost all, the present position is to many one of extreme hardship.

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RATANUI. Otago Witness, Issue 2760, 6 February 1907

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