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BIG FIRE AT WAIPORI., Otago Witness, Issue 2812, 5 February 1908
BIG FIRE AT WAIPORI.
A MILE OP BLAZING BUSH. ELECTRICAL AVOBKS SAFE. Smoke rolling heavily up from the direction of Waipori last Wednesday afternoon caused some speculation and not a little uneasiness to those who knew almost to a. nicety the position of the City Council's hydro-electrical works. This uneasiness was in nowise allayed byjtfce receipt of a telephone message by -iBTr Stark, city electrical engineer, to the effect that a bush fire was 'raging furiously at Waipori, and had already destroyed a poition of the barracks. THE WORKS SAFE. The destruction of the corporation's works would naturally be attended with eucbT fai--reaching results that such an event could only be regarded as a dire calamity* Those who had heard tho news, or part of it, therefore awaited further tidings with grave anxiety. A reassuring message, however, soon came to hand to the effect that the works were safe, but that No. 3 building (the barracks), the sawmill, the 6tables, and two tents had been destroyed, and that the fire was still raging on both banks of the river. HOW IT HAPPENED. It appears that the fire started on Wilcher's run, and spread with alarmingrapidity. Pieccded by a \anguard of whaling sparks, the flames flew roaiing through the bush, licking up the gra*s, crackling in the branches, and leaving in its wake a wilderness of glowing cinders. The whole gang- turned out to do battle with the flames, which had crossed the liver, then flowing literally between banks of fire. Though no time was lost, showers of sparks and burning leaves falling on to the roofs of buildings soon set them smouldering in several places, and a breeze speedily fanned them into flame. One man, who, by reason of being married, did no£ live in the barracks, but in a tent with _hia family, turned out to save the ' buildings if possible. While thus engaged the bush fire sent- out a red tentacle along a strip of grass, and when he returned he found hie lent burned to a cinder. LABOUR- IN VAIN. In the midst of tho smoke and sgarks,
the fizz and hissing of flame, and the roaring of the fire in the bush, it is said that the men worked as if possessed, and continued to do so nearly all night. Mr Keon was In charge of operations, and must, with the barracks, tents, the stables, and the sawmill blazing simultaneously, have had his work cut out for him. The water supply was much as usual. The -«eind, what there was of it, was blowing up the valley, but fortunately it did not rise. As it was, a quantity of valuable bush has been destroyed. MACHINERY RUINTJEIX Thci-e are three sets of buildings for dwelling- purposes at Waipori. The first is occupied by the first engineer; the second by the second and third engineers; and the third, which is commonly called the barracks, houses four operators, a and a maid. This last is one of the buildings totally destroyed, in spite of every effort to sa\e it. The women were sheltered in one of the other buildings; the men, it appears, being out all night beating out fire. The building carried an insurance of £700. The stable j succumbed with celerity, the roof falling j in amid an inferno of sparks, which promptly started incipient conflagrations of their own. Two tents curled up in flame- like tsheets of paper, and both were places of residence. The- sawmill had not been used for six months, and contained little timber ready for cutting. The machinery is naturally irretrievably ruined, a-nd as it is valued at £200 will be a severe loss. As it has not been in use for some ime and was not expected to be put into use for some time to come, the destruction of the machinery is not likely to materially affect subsequent operation*. Now that the surrounding 1 timber 1 has been demolished, material for rebuilding the barracks, etc., will probably have to be procured from Dunedin at a considerablygreater expense. MR STARK INTERVIEWED. Mr E. E. Stark, city electrical engineer, on his return from the meeting of the City Council, where the matter was reported, was good enough to reply to certain questions put to him by a representative of the Times. Mr Stark pointed out that from the way the wind was blowing the dwelling-houses and outbuildings at Waipori were in the direct line of fire, and, that as, apparently^ over a mile of
bush wa<s in flames, even though the win<l was not high, the outbuildings could scarcely have much chance of escaping; scot free. There had been no danger tothe works, and the power-house, which, bj; the way. is concrete, was never so much as threatened.
As the fl uming at; Waipori is a wooden race, there seemed to be a. probability of its having caught, but Mr Stark assured our reporter that it had not been damaged! in the slightest, being half a mile from the nearest patch of fire. The penstock, an enclosure fro in, which the water from the fluming is discharged into the Peltont wheels, was also well clear, arid had! escaped injur\\ Mr Stark corroborated the statement that there wa-s no timber ready for cutting near the sawmill when it was burned. He was of opinion that rebuilding material would now have to be procured from Dunedin. WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.
As the fire was reported to be still burning 1 when we went to press, and as the means of communication with Waipori a.re somewhat limited, the exact amount of damage done cannot be accurately estimated. Mr Stark, accompanied by the insurance inspector, leaves for Waipori by motor ear early this morning. It seems that the episode was entirely unexpected. The unexpected has, -as usual, happened, and the public when reading of what has occurred will doubtless reflect on what might have been.
BIG FIRE AT WAIPORI., Otago Witness, Issue 2812, 5 February 1908
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