A helicopter with a monsoon bucket flies to a scrub fire in
Shands Rd in the Prebbleton area of Christchurch yesterday.
Photo by Christchurch Star.
Firefighters are battling a large scrub fire in West
Melton - the latest in a spate of fires in Canterbury in the
last 24 hours.
A total of 15 fire appliances and water tankers are battling
the blaze, which started just after 1pm on a property in
Thompsons Rd, near the Waimakariri River.
Three helicopters are also using monsoon buckets to douse
A Fire Service spokesman said the blaze is about 100 metres
long but he was unsure whether any homes were in danger or if
any evacuations would take place.
"I don't have a lot of information about it at the moment.
But we may need more helicopters, we are not sure yet."
Foul play not ruled out
Fire chiefs are not ruling out foul play as they probe the
origins of yesterday's (Thursday) Canterbury scrub blaze
which destroyed three homes.
The fire which ripped through dry farmland on the southern
outskirts of Christchurch, spurred on by strong nor'west
winds, was brought under control last night.
Property owners were evacuated from houses, livestock and
horses set free, and large cordons put in place as the fire
Helicopters with monsoon buckets and up to 150 volunteer and
professional firefighters battled the blaze as it spread
across a rural area, popular for lifestyle blocks, between
Rolleston and Prebbleton.
The view, while flying over the fire in a chopper while the
blaze was at its peak yesterday, was "scary", said Wilson
Brown, Selwyn district's principal fire officer: "All you
could see were flames jumping everywhere."
He was stunned by its speed.
"This thing was moving extremely fast. You would not be
out-running it if you were in front of it."
The intense fire leapt across two roads, before firefighters
halted its rampaging 150-hectare advance at Springs Rd early
The extreme heat of the fire was drying out grass in front of
it, until it caught fire, and then it carried on, Mr Brown
Embers could have seen it leap across tarmac and cross roads,
or its heat could have made dry areas combust, fire experts
Firefighters have since kept it under control as the cordons
were lifted and homeowners returned to see if their
properties were still standing.
A fire investigation into how it started has begun.
Shortly before 11am today, nor'west winds picked up, sending
nervous glances between fire officials.
Mr Brown was keeping an "open mind" as to the cause of
It is believed to have started on private land behind the
Selwyn District Court-owned Wheatsheaf Quarry on Selwyn Rd,
but the investigation was in its early stages.
Suspicions that it was started deliberately were being looked
at, he said.
"To be honest, people can do silly things," said Mr Brown,
who believed it was the first major fire in the region since
Charges could be laid if anyone is found to be responsible
for the blaze. They could also be liable for an enormous bill
to cover the fire call-outs.
The area was still smoking heavily today, with gusts of wind
stirring up flames intermittently, and fire crews were
keeping a watchful eye on it.
Pointing to smouldering piles of straw at the boundary to the
quarry, Mr Brown said: "These are still active fires."
"Our biggest concern is to try and contain it today by
letting it burn out, dampen areas down by hose; basically
stopping it from erupting again."
Incident controller Douglas Marshall said he would let the
area smoulder and hopefully "burn itself out" without further
Paddocks surrounding the quarry and neighbouring chicken
farm, where 18,000 animals were killed in the blaze, are
The charring appeared haphazard, with the flames blown in
different directions by strong gusts of wind.
The "bizarre" fire patterns were some of the the strangest Mr
Brown had ever seen.
Fire officials are on high alert for the weekend, with
weather predictions for more hot, blustery conditions.
"It's far from ideal, and we're readying ourselves for
another busy few days," Mr Brown said.