Nelson: Pigeon Valley fire ‘accidental’

Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Investigation into Pigeon Valley Fire classifies it as accidental - An investigation into one of New Zealand’s largest plantation forest fires has classified the fire as accidental.

The Pigeon Valley Fire, which began on the afternoon of 5 February, eventually burned around 2300ha of commercial plantation forest, property and pastures, and had a final perimeter of 35km. A home and shed were also lost in the fire.

Fire and Emergency Principal Rural Fire Officer for Nelson Tasman Ian Reade says the report found the fire was caused by the use of farm equipment. The fire was initially sparked by an agricultural contractor discing a rocky paddock. The report found that sparks from the discing equipment - from metal on stone or metal on metal contact - ignited dry grass in the paddock. Fuelled by southerly winds, the fire then quickly spread onto a steep recently harvested hillside of forestry nearby.

"This fire proves that, in extreme weather conditions, a seemingly every-day rural activity can end up causing widespread damage," Mr Reade says, "It was the proverbial perfect storm."

The weather conditions in the area during the six weeks prior to the fire were characterised by little or no rainfall, high temperatures, and often windy conditions. The Nelson Tasman Rural Fire District was in a prohibited fire season at the time, meaning there was a total fire ban.

Mr Reade says the conditions Nelson and Tasman experienced this summer were extreme, but not unique. Parts of Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago, Bay of Plenty and Northland all had similar fire risk profiles.

For more information on rural fire safety, go to www.fireandemergency.nz/farms-rural-properties-and-rural-businesses

Fire and Emergency has also released fire investigation reports into two other fires that occurred in February at Atawhai and Rabbit Island. It is likely both these fires were deliberately lit.


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