The Great Peninsula Fire – 14th January 1898

On 14 January 1898, a careless cook at a grass seeders’ camp in Little River, left his fire unattended during a nor-wester. What resulted was one of the worst fires Banks Peninsula has ever seen – burning the best part of 4 days.

The fire quickly spread across neighbouring properties; destroying homes, woolsheds, fencing and killing livestock. The fire spread as high as Hill Top and reached as far as Barry’s Bay. The flames that roared above the township of Akaroa made the harbour waters appear red.

“The air was thick with smoke, and the scent of fire and heat, and the sense of great loss” Akaroa Mail

Due to the quick actions of about 200 men, using sacks no less, finally put the fire out around 18 January. During the height of hopelessness and fear, it was believed that only a good dumping of rain would put the fire out.

(Please note that the photo attached in not directly related to the accompanying article)

*Image courtesy of The Alexander Turnbull Library – Group around a campfire. Shaw, G W : Photographs of and relating to the Wilson family ex Eketahuna. Ref: PA1-q-269-47-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

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