22 Jan 2013

Bushfire forces evacuations on Great Barrier

11:59 pm on 22 January 2013

Auckland police have sent a team of officers to assist colleagues on Great Barrier Island as firefighters battle a large fire.

The fire broke out in the Kaitoke area, on the east of the island, just after one o'clock on Tuesday afternoon.

The fire service says people in about 15 homes have been evacuated, and a nearby medical centre is also under threat.

Three helicopters with monsoon buckets were stood down when it got dark.

Firefighters were working around the edges of the fire, trying to keep it from spreading overnight.

The additional police were sent shortly before midnight on Tuesday as there were only a few police on the island.

The fire started in the eastern area of Claris was initially thought to be a flare-up from a weekend blaze in the area.

The Fire Service says people in a community of about 15 homes and a commercial business were evacuated as a precaution.

Visibility was poor because there was a lot of smoke and it was difficult for helicopter crews with monsoon buckets to get water to the worst-affected areas, they said.

Local council board chair Paul Downie, says the area is full of manuka, kanuka and pine - and is very flammable.

Evacuated resident are staying with friends and family.

Flights in and out of Claris airport were diverted to the airport in Okiwi.

Meanwhile, another blaze in the Auckland region and a large scrub fire in Northland also kept fire crews busy throughout Tuesday.

In Northland, fire-fighters worked all day on a fire that burned 180 hectares of scrub at Pouto after it started at 9.30am.

In Auckland's Kawakawa Bay, firefighters had to call on the Coastguard to help them gain access to a fire that burned a stand of trees.