Vineyard owner learns the hard way about fire safety

A Central Otago vineyard owner has learned the hard way about the dangers of the tinder dry conditions, after a blaze which destroyed a section of his vineyard.

Fire authorities are warning high temperatures in the coming week will elevate fire danger in already dry areas. The risk is made worse by high grass growth after a wet December.

It's a messge that Joss Purbrick, owner of Black Ridge Vineyard, near Alexandra is now acutely aware of.

Around 600sqm of his vineyard was destroyed in a fire on Monday, when dry grass caught alight in dry, windy conditions. Mr Purbrick said a simple mistake was to blame.

"We have had a huge growth of grass on the vineyard, and so we began mowing many months back - however, over Labour Weekend, both my mowers broke down," he said.

He said he was trying to catch up on with the mowing before the fire broke out.

"I must have ht a rock with the mower and it must have caused a spark, as I had been mowing for a while and then looked up to see this big inferno, and got a huge fright," said Mr Purbrick.

Luckily a member of the local volunteer fire brigrade was driving past, and was able to report the blaze.

"They were there very quickly and hit it with everything they had, including a helicopter. It could have been alot worse, so hats off to the fire service."

The boutique vineyard and winery was planted in 1981 and is one of the region's oldest vineyards.