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Chopper called to bush fire

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

FirefightersBy Dean Taylor

Te Awamutu firefighters joined colleagues from Cambridge and Putaruru, and a Skyworks helicopter with a monsoon bucket, to fight a fire in a stand of bluegum at Arapuni.

Putaruru brigade received the call at 4pm Tuesday and could see the fire from town. Putaruru deputy chief fire officer Dean Coghan says he called for backup when they were able to get a closer look at the fire en route and upon arrival at the Oreipunga Road property immediately called for a helicopter.

His crew concentrated on preventing the fire from spreading to neighbouring pines, then with the other brigades set about establishing water supplies for the firefighters.

The helicopter was used to knock back the flames, which spread over a hectare, before firefighters could move in and finish the job.

The brigades needed all their equipment and experience to pump water from Waikato River to the fire scene. Several appliances and portable pumps were deployed to relay water to tankers and portable dams as far as 300 metres uphill from the river.

Fire officer Spence Brockbank of Te Awamutu says it was the first time specialist bush and forest fire fighting equipment supplied by Waipa District Council was used outside training. He says the gear proved its worth.

It is believed the owner of the property had been trying to fight the fire alone for some hours, but had to call for assistance once the fire jumped the ridge into the bluegums.

Mr Colghan says the message is simple, call for help at the earliest opportunity. He says several appliances, tankers, a helicopter and 21 firefighters worked for five hours to control a blaze that should have been dealt with by two brigades within an hour if the call had come earlier.