Cause of Wakanui fire unknown

The cause of a massive fire on a Wakanui farm, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, will be at the centre of an investigation this week.

Fire investigators have been called in from Timaru after 20 fire crews from Mid Canterbury and surrounding districts spent more than 24 hours battling the Le Bretons Road blaze since 6pm Sunday.

With firefighters still at the scene about 6pm last night, it was believed more than 3500 hay bales, a truck, two trailers a harvester and Bobcat were destroyed, along with a hay shed.

"We haven't got a cause yet, we have called in fire investigators who will work to find out what happened . . . we could expect that in a couple of days," Mid-South Canterbury area commander Paul Henderson said.

The Ashburton District Council may look to recover the costs for the rural fire forces which attended the blaze.

"It's a bit early to say at this stage, but what I can say is if the cost is recovered, it could be substantial," acting rural fire officer Dave O'Donnell said.

The farmer of the Le Bretons Road property Blair McBain was helping assist fire authorities when contacted yesterday, and agreed the damage could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's all a bit of a shock really, we don't know what's going to happen from here just yet," he said yesterday.

It comes after an investigation was launched last week into four rural fires on February 22, all believed to be arson after hay bales, sheds and machinery was destroyed.

"It's too early to tell if they are linked, but we doubt that to be the case because of where it started but as I said the investigation is still in place," Mr Henderson said.

He said rural firefighters and contractors spent yesterday afternoon spreading burned hay bales in a nearby paddock, using the farm's irrigation system to keep it soaked. Work was done to prevent the fire from spreading into other hay stacks and the tree line.

- By Myles Hume of the Ashburton Guardian

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