The big­gest fire in Porirua’s his­tory


Russell Postle­waight had just poured him­self a scotch when he saw the smoke. Porirua’s chief fire safety of­fi­cer lives in Pare­mata and has a fan­tas­tic view look­ing to­wards Porirua Har­bour and Whi­tireia Park.

On the evening of Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 21, 2010, he was set­tling down when he spot­ted tell­tale ten­drils of smoke above Shel­ley Bay on the other side of the wa­ter.

‘‘In no time the smoke had be­come flames and I thought, ‘No good can come of this’. I watched it all de­velop and it lit up the sky.’’

The huge blaze caused hun­dreds of peo­ple on Gloam­ing Hill to be evac­u­ated and briefly threat­ened the Ti­tahi Golf Club.

In the end, 30 hectares was charred by the blaze.

The cost of fight­ing the fire and to the park was es­ti­mated at more than $500,000.

The blaze is thought to be the big­gest in Porirua’s his­tory. Six crews from around the re­gion at­tended, with 60 of the 80 fire­fight­ers vol­un­teers, and four heli­copters with mon­soon buck­ets were used.

Ti­tahi Bay res­i­dent Sarah Campbell re­called her two el­dest chil­dren, 4 and 5, thought the smoke, sirens, he­li­copter and fire en­gines was a ‘‘great ad­ven­ture’’, but her two youngest, 22 months and 2 weeks, were ter­ri­fied by the noise and drama.

‘‘De­spite a rough evening for our fam­ily, we were not in im­mi­nent dan­ger and were able to of­fer friends meals and cof­fee when they were evac­u­ated from their homes,’’ she said.

‘‘I saw the fire as it was start­ing and had no idea then that it would be­come as huge as it did.’’

Fel­low res­i­dent Donna FordTu­veve re­mem­bered the crack­ling of the fire and feel­ing the heat over her bound­ary fence.

‘‘The pre­vail­ing wind and the awe­some work of the fire crews were the saviours,’’ she said.

‘‘One of our sons was a new­born. I was get­ting them ready to go to their nana’s in the east, be­cause I was con­cerned how close the fire was. The burnt smell lin­gered for ages.’’

Porirua fire­fighter Kevin Hintz worked on the fire the fol­low­ing day and said it was tough work.

‘‘We were in gul­lies and had to use chain­saws to cut a track in. The con­di­tions were dry and the flames were trav­el­ling quickly.’’

Postle­waight said it was the most spec­tac­u­lar fire in Porirua’s his­tory. Two dry sum­mers and warm winds cre­ated the per­fect


recipe for fire, he said.

‘‘It showed off the ba­sic tenets of team­work [among fire crews and se­nior com­mand] and was a plain, old-fash­ioned slog. It did get rid of a lot of gorse, how­ever.’’

There was smoke dam­age to houses, but no-one was in­jured.

Mem­bers of the Red Cross, Welling­ton Free Am­bu­lance and fire ser­vices were later pub­licly thanked in a cer­e­mony at the golf club.

The Whi­tireia Park Restora­tion Group was es­tab­lished to set up re­plant­ing projects and weed con­trol.

A 14-year-old was charged with de­lib­er­ately start­ing a fire and went through the courts.

Russell Postle­waight’s dra­matic photo of Whi­tireia Park on fire, taken from his home in Pare­mata.

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