Lake Ōhau fire one of the most expensive in New Zealand's history

Source: 1News

1 NEWS can reveal that the fire that destroyed around half of Lake Ohau village last month is one of the most expensive in New Zealand's history.

The big insurance bill has sparked warnings about where we should be building homes.

Nearly 50 luxury lakeside houses were wiped out as the fire ripped through.

Now the cost of damage has come in at nearly $35 million.

In comparison, the 2017 Port Hills blaze in Christchurch cost insurers $18 million and last year's Tasman fires was almost $4 million.

“It's absolutely huge”, Tim Grafton from the Insurance Council says.

“We had 150 house and contents claims, 24 car claims, and business claims as well, and a lot of houses, just total losses as well.”

Rural Fire Scientist Grant Pearce from Scion has been studying wildfire behaviour for almost 30 years and says he has never seen a fire quite like this.

“It would be the most severe wildfire in terms of its impacts that I've been involved in over that time… probably on a scale of that we haven't seen in New Zealand for almost a century.”

Pearce says, “most of the homes are relatively new, so 20 years old or less so in terms of their construction we would think they would probably do reasonably well in a wildfire compared to ones with older properties but that wasn't the case.”

He is concerned about the frequency of the wildfires in New Zealand and says we need to rethink consents and focus heavily on preparedness.

“Through better planning processes so improved risk assessments around where wildfires will increase in future and… building controls on whether housing is built in those areas at all,” he says.

Fire and Emergency NZ told 1 NEWS the investigation into the cause of the Lake Ohau blaze is ongoing.

While many Kiwis will be relaxing this summer, authorities are urging people to have fire preparedness front of mind, especially with a La Nina weather pattern due.

That includes keeping gutters cleared, lawns cut low and having a clear zone around your home.

Lewis Ferris from MetService says “prolonged periods of heat and dry is what is going to bring about these fiery… People are going to have to take extra care, even with doing their housework. Mowing the lawns could start a fire in ultra-dry conditions."

Here are some more helpful fire safety tips from Fire and Emergency:

• don’t store flammable material under or against your house or deck – i.e. outdoor furniture covers or firewood.

• have a non-flammable doormat.

• keep gutters clean and areas that collect debris free over summer months so embers can't enter.

• use stone, cement, tiles and green grass to create a 'clear zone' around your house so surface fires can’t reach your house.

• keep lawns watered and green during the summer months.

• remove all trees, long grass, shrubs and logs branches, twigs and needles within 10 meters of your house, as they are fuel for fire.

• make sure your driveway is wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles (at least 4 x 4 meters).

• ensure your house number is easy for emergency services to find.