8 Aug 2019

Waste pile could burn for weeks

3:06 pm on 8 August 2019

A fire in a waste pile on rural land near Whangarei could burn for weeks.

Fire at Pataua North Road.

Fire at Pataua North Road. Photo: NZ Fire and Emergency

Fire and Emergency deputy principal fire officer Michael Champtaloup said the fire set in a pile of sawdust and other material at Pataua North Road.

He says the pile is down a steep bank and contains timber offcuts, forestry slash and tyres.

"The fire has been contained; however, it is very deep-seated in the pile, which is understood to have been accumulating for more than 20 years.

"This, combined with access issues created by the steep, 40m high working face, means the fire could smoulder for weeks, potentially months."

Four nearby residents have been advised by Northland District Health Board public health oficials to disconnect any downpipes suppyling water tanks until forecast rain washes any ash from rooftops.

The property owner, who lives on the site, has been advised to vacate if the wind changes and takes the smoke plume in the direction of the house.

Firefighters working in the inner cordon of the incident are wearing air purifying respirators due to the possible risk from prolonged exposure to smoke.

Crews were first called to the fire on private land on Tuesday morning.

A helicopter with a monsoon bucket, as well as firefighting crews on the ground, were initially used to extinguish the fire.

Since then two diggers and a bulldozer have been used to build a containment line and remove items from the fire.

Other flammable material on the site, such as stacks of wooden pallets and other piles of sawdust, is being shifted further away from the fire.

Northland Regional Council will be carrying out environmental monitoring on the site and will also be investigating activities that have been carried out on the site in relation to complying with Regional Plan rules.

A fire investigator is also conducting a probe into the cause.