1887-88 Fires

8 February, 1888: on the 5th, a small portion of felled bush near Hastwell's Clearing, north of Masterton, was observed burning, signalling the start of the annual settlers' burn. However, it didn't take, and was extinguished next day by rain. Two days later, 8th, a southerly gale came through in the morning, the bush was seen to be on fire, and dwellings were lost. Six settlers were burnt out and the fire was about 200 acres in size.

10 February: a fierce gale caused bush fires around Woodville to spread in all directions. For three hours the whole town was in imminent danger, before a shift of wind occurred, lessening the danger. The whole town turned ont, and were hard at work all night saving property. Two houses were destroyed. 

An extensive bush fire was burning on the side of the ranges between Featherston and the Tauherenikau River. Homesteads were in great danger, and men were employed in cutting the gorse fences down to keep the fire from spreading.

12 February: Auckland and the Waitakere ranges were shrouded in smoke from bush fires in the Huia district and also between Waitakere and Helensville. 

February: Puhipuhi Kauri forest in Northland was buring.  Reports of this fire are sketchy.  The fire was so extensive that it was falsely reported as a volcanic explosion at one stage. It was alleged that the fire was due to gumdiggers, and the Chief Conservator of Forests estimated that the timber loss was 10,000 of the total  300,000 forest value. There were plans to recover the damaged timber. The forest suffered another significant fire in January 1896.

16 March: Norsewood, a settlement in the Seventy Mile Bush, was overrun by fire, rendering 36 families homeless. It had been settled for 15 years, and most of the bush in the surrounding countryside had been cleared. At about 10 am, a gale rose, and sent sparks into a clearing, resulting in a vigorous fire. The wind drove this fire towards Norsewood village, arriving in the afternoon at a time that most menfolk were away at work. Embers set multiple fires in the village as the fire swept through. A few buildings were saved by drapping them with wet blankets, but the fight was hopeless, and women and children abandoned the village. Those children at school were led by the teacher to a clearing to the north a mile to the north, on the road to Kopua, to join the evacuees. The school was destroyed, along with two churches, two public buildings and seven businesses. Some 23 dwellings were lost, numerous barns, outhouses and miles of fencing.

The fire continued on its way to reach Ormondville, 6 km south- east . A road bridge was lost, and the township itself threatened. The fire reached the rail line at Mangaroa, and a group of men were detailed to protect a trestle bridge. Fire was burning both sides of the line at Kopua. It was feared that the church at Ormondville would be lost when a thunderstorm and heavy rain set in.

18 km to the north,  another fire advanced on Ashley Clinton, taking two houses, before the rain removed the danger of a repeat of the Norsewood tragedy. Three settlers at Makaretu, 4 km north, found themselves surrounded by fire, and were only saved with the rain.