Canterbury firefighters were on high alert and preparing for
the worst again last night after another frantic day battling
scrub fires in the tinder-dry region.
A spate of fires in 24 hours, including a blaze south of
Christchurch which razed three homes, was followed yesterday
afternoon by a large blaze at West Melton.
It started on dry farmland near the Waimakariri River and
quickly spread to 100 hectares, threatening a large pine
About 300 people at a sidecar motorcycle racing event at
Moorepark Speedway were evacuated, along with some local
leaseholders and sheep stock downwind of the fire.
"We hit it hard, and we hit it fast," said Fire Service
acting area commander Dave Berry.
At its height, the fire's front spread across 100 metres, and
smoke could be seen from Christchurch city.
Nine tankers, six fire trucks, and three helicopters using
monsoon buckets soon had the latest blaze under control. The
farmers have since been allowed to go home, while Mr Berry
expected the motorcycle enthusiasts - who had retreated to
the nearby Yaldhurst Hotel - to return to their track event.
Last evening, rural fire crews were still working to contain
the fire, with three fire trucks and 10 tankers at their
"They believe the fire is contained and winding down,"
Southern Fire communications shift manager Andrew Norris
said. Fire experts are investigating how it started.
Firefighters were also busy last night tackling a plantation
fire at Gore Bay in North Canterbury.
Mr Norris said two pumps and four tankers, including units
from Cheviot, were battling the blaze.
Another scrub fire near Christchurch International Airport
yesterday was put out.
Mr Berry praised the quick work of his firefighters, some of
whom had fought Thursday's blaze.
The Fire Service would "definitely" remain on high alert over
the weekend, which forecasters say will continue to be hot,
dry and windy.
Mr Berry reminded the public of a total fire ban and to take
"It is dry, and yesterday proved just how quickly a fire can
travel. Today we were just lucky there was little wind."
There have been more than 20 fires in Canterbury in the last
24 hours but, with call-outs to flare-ups continuing, it was
difficult to say exactly how many there have been or how many
firefighting units had been deployed.
Thursday's scrub fire between Rolleston and Prebbleton, which
destroyed three homes, continued to flare up yesterday
Mr Norris said it would occupy firefighters overnight.
"We've got crews constantly going around that area, checking
all the reported hot-spots and flare-ups and things like
"That looks like it's going to be an ongoing issue for the
next 12 hours at least."
Foul play has not been ruled out as the cause of Thursday's
fire, which leapt across two roads as it advanced across 150
hectares of land. Helicopters with monsoon buckets and up to
150 volunteer and professional firefighters battled the