Storm triggers DOC office blaze
A Department of Conservation office has been razed after a nearby transformer was struck by lightning amid a fierce storm that lashed the King Country.
Staff that operate out of the Pureroa DOC field office on Barryville Rd have been left without a headquarters after last Wednesday’s fire.
The fateful bolt was one of the 700 or so lightning strikes that hit over land in the Waikato and Waitomo regions in the six hours from 1am.
Around 4.30am a farmer going out to milk his cows noticed the hue of the fire emanating from the field offices that is situated about 1.5km from the main State Highway 30, Mangakino Fire Chief Craig Snowball said.
Residents in the nearby village had also woken to the lightning, hearing the bang as it directly struck the transformer.
‘‘There has been a lightning strike, which hit the transformer and blew out two meter boxes on the power pole near the buildings.’’
Snowball, who was woken by his dog barking as thunder struck over Mangakino, said lightning was firing up the skies as the crew made the 30km trip south.
By the time the first crews reached the site on Barryville Rd, half of the single storey building was in flames.
‘‘Half of it was already on the ground - due to its vicinity and the lack of water out there.’’
Snowball said locals had rallied and arrived with their own equipment, including a pump that was used to pump water from the creek to fill up the fire trucks rotating from the blaze until a tanker arrived from Otorohanga.
All of the office equipment, smoko room, and staff offices were destroyed, he said.
Some of the staff’s documents survived but that area of the offices had suffered smoke and water damage. DOC Operations manager based out of Te Kuiti, Natasha Hayward, said staff spent the morning salvaging what they could. Up to 12 staff use the officers. Three are permanently based there.
‘‘It’s been pretty devastating.’’ Hayward said they are assessing if the team will be partly based in Te Kuiti, or at one of the buildings at the base of Pureora.
‘‘It’s important to have a base to work in the park.’’
She said they had managed to salvage radio and field gear and a stone carving donated by a local school. The bodies of two men who went missing in the Tongariro National Park in early August have been found.
Friends Ha¯ kopa Ngaronoa, 26, and Vincent Taurima, 21, disappeared after they allegedly fled from a police chase on the Desert Road. Police said they found their remains on Saturday.
A car was abandoned on a track by Tree Trunk Gorge Rd, off the Desert Road, mid-afternoon on August 12, police said at the time.
Two days later, police put out a statement saying they had serious concerns for two men in their 20s who were lost in the bush – thought to be the driver and passenger.
What turned into a four-week search through dense scrub was already under way, and eventually involved police, LANDSAR, specialist search teams, police national dive squad, dogs, and hundreds of volunteers.
The men’s wha¯nau was informed that their bodies were found, and police iwi liaison officers offered support, police said.
The bodies were to be returned to their families.
The deaths will be referred to the coroner.
About 90 per cent of the Barryville Rd DOC field office was burned to the ground.