Fire is out, but who­dun­nit?


Fire­fight­ers are con­fi­dent the Rat Point fire that dev­as­tated the sur­round­ing land­scape near Queen­stown is out.

Otago Ru­ral Fire Au­thor­ity deputy prin­ci­pal ru­ral fire of­fi­cer Jamie Cowan said no hotspots had been found in the past four days, but au­thor­i­ties were still mon­i­tor­ing the area.

Cowan said po­lice had been un­able to lo­cate two peo­ple wanted in con­nec­tion with a camp­fire that started the blaze.

Queen­stown po­lice es­tab­lished last week that the own­ers of a white van seen where the fire started did not cause the blaze.

The Fire Ser­vice con­firmed last Thurs­day a camp­fire on the beach caused the fire, which cov­ered 150 hectares at its height.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were seek­ing an older model, dark-coloured sta­tion wagon oc­cu­pied by a male and fe­male in their 20s.

The cou­ple had been down by the lake and were seen com­ing back up, get­ting into their car and driv­ing away, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment on Fri­day. They left the scene be­fore the fire started.

Peo­ple were asked to call the Fire Ser­vice on 0800 673 473 or po­lice with in­for­ma­tion.

Cowan said cooler weather had been in­stru­men­tal in pre­vent­ing flare-ups.

‘‘We’ve had rain, we’ve had bloody snow. It’s been very, very help­ful.’’

Glenorchy res­i­dents were in the dark for two nights af­ter the huge fire knocked out power lines, but elec­tric­ity was re­stored on Thurs­day.

About 1km of power poles and lines be­tween Queen­stown and Glenorchy were burned.

Off-duty po­lice of­fi­cer Craig Bryant drove through the fire area, which at one point burned on both sides of the Glenorchy road, and said it was ‘‘pretty eerie’’.

Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade deputy chief fire of­fi­cer An­drew Bary said the fire was in­tense, but for­tu­nately it was south­west fac­ing na­tive bush, so was not as hot and did not spread as fast as other fires might.

The blaze be­gan about 11.30pm on Tues­day, forc­ing au­thor­i­ties to close the road be­tween Queen­stown and Glenorchy for a time.

There were fears it could be pushed to­wards Queen­stown by fore­casted 90 kilo­me­tre-an-hour winds.

At its peak 50 fire­fight­ers and seven he­li­copters bat­tled the flames and thick smoke.

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