A BUSH FIRE IN HOKITIKA.
(From the West Coast Times.)
Although the majority of the residents of Hokitika are not altogether unused to the spectacle of bush fires, yet we may say very few ever saw, before yesterday, or expected to see on this coast, such a phenomenon as presented itself to their gaze. Early in the morning a dense smoke to the eastward announced the presence of a fire of some extent, but for a considerable time it was supposed to originate only in the firing of scrub in clearing some land ; however, it had increased so much by midday, that it was evident the conflagration had extended itself to the dense forest, and was devastating no small area of country. At about three o'clock the fire bell sent forth its warning note, and with praiseworthy alacrity the Brigade mustered in force, and, shortly followed by the police, proceeded up North Kevell-street to Parkstreet, where the flames had increased by the brisk breeze then blowing to a degree.that seriously endangered the surrounding habitations. A portion of the Brigade, seeing the whole space between Park-street and Gibson's Quay covered with volumes of densesmoke, brightened here and there with Tmlliarit sheets of fire, went down Staffordstreet, where the devouring element was fiercest, and, assisted by residents of that locality, succeeded, after many hours of unremitting and exhausting labor, in their efforts to stay the progress of the flames and save from destruction the many buildings in that locality. Impelled by the wind, sparks alighted in'all directions, and kindled into a blaze whatever they fell upon; for the late dry and hot weather had so parched the masses of supplejacks, scrub, grass, and so forth, covering the ground, as to afford every facility for the progress and extension of the fire; and places that five minutes before had been free from the advancing enemy, were dotted in a dozen parts with rapidly increasing tufts of flame, as if by some supernatural agency. This not only increased the difficulty of getting the fire under, but at one time gave rise to the most serious apprehensions for the safety of the town itself, incandescent masses of considerable size being momentarily wafted in clouds towards Bevellstreet. Between Stafford-street and Gibson's Quay the same scene was presented on a rather smaller seale —trees, after a moment or two's premonitory smoking, bursting into flame from root to summit, and tongues of lambent fire ascending in a second like blazing serpents to the top of many a forest giant, by means of the parasitical plants embracing them, which the drought had parched to the consistency of tinder. Bands of men, alarmed, and with good reason, for the safety of their domiciles, could be seen indistinctly flitting about in the dense smoke endeavoring to extinguish, by means of earth, water, and beating, tho flame gradually encoiling them in its destroying embraces ; women were conveying their more portable property to places of comparative safety, and tents were hastily Btruck, swags made up, and removed by their owners to less dangerous positions. Late in the afternoon the exertions of so many hundred men had had the desired effect of so far impeding the progress of the flames, that danger to the town was entirely removed, though the baffled enemy still blazed defiance to the puny efforts of man from its fiery retreat in the forest depths. Night presented a spectacle that for grandeur and sublimity we never saw equalled in New Zealand, for such scenes are less frequent here than in the arid colonies of Australia; a brilliant canopy of smoke overhung the bush, and flames of a thousand fantastic shapes and hues disported itself grimly among the wilely-exfcnling branches, while now and then a loud crash betokened the fall of some monster of the woods, the victorious flame afc such times shooting up as if in triumph over its prostrate victim. Ifc is scarcely possible at present to assign any reason for the presence ot so unwelcome a visitant, many conflicting statements have reached our ears; but the prevailing opinion is that some tent-dweller (new-chum, probably) had left his fire burning after boiling his billy, and that it had made its way into the scrub. We are not in a position to state positively whether any of the threatened buildings actually suffered, though we are inclined to believe they must have done so; but it is certain that the danger for a long time was exceedingly great, aud that it was only owing to the persevering exertions of the residents and the Eire Brigade that many scores of poor families are not at the present moment houseless and destitute. Of this latter body —at once the most valuable and tho least esteemed of all our local institutions—only one opinion can be entertained namely, that no praise that we can bestow upon them would be too- strong to express public appreciation of their gallant conduct. Long may it be^ere we again have need for their exertions; but when that time does come we may feel confident, from what was witnessed yesterday, that what lies in the power of bold and united efforts to achieve •,we may expect from the Hokitika Eire ißrigade.
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