Crews battle Maniototo blazes

Up to eight helicopters and nine fire appliances are fighting multiple blazes that threaten at least one building near Waipiata in the Maniototo tonight.

Lighting strikes are thought to have caused the fires between Waipiata and Kokonga, which have prompted police to shut part of SHH87

Rural command public information officer Valda Jordan said a command unit had been set-up to help co-ordinate the situation.

All the helicopters would be stood down soon once it was too dark to continue.

Around 8.30pm there was no indication to how big the fire was, she said.

Metservice forecaster Sarah Hadden said forecast in the area for the next 12 hours was for fine conditions but with a strong northeasterly building overnight before a southerly brought rain tomorrow afternoon.

Up to 30 lighting strikes were recorded in the area between 5.30pm and 6.30pm.

The road between Waipiata and Kokonga is closed, the Central Otago District Council advised just before 9pm.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokeswoman Jill Higginson earlier said firefighters were called to a scrub fire on Waipiata-Kokonga Rd just after 6pm.

It was thought a passing lightning storm sparked the fire, she said.

Crews from the Ranfurly and Naseby Volunteer Fire Brigades were involved, with tankers from Palmerston, Middlemarch and Wakari.

Central Otago police are asking motorists to be aware of road closures near Ranfurly, as emergency services respond to the scrub fires.
SH87 is closed between the intersection with SH85 and Waipiata-Kokonga Rd. 
Waipiata-Kokonga Rd is also closed. 
Motorists should avoid travel or take alternative routes where possible. 

Waipiata Country Hotel owner Mark Button said smoke could be seen from the Waipiata township but it was on the Kokonga side of the Taieri River.

A thunderstorm passed through the area about 6pm and Mr Button thought it had sparked two separate fires.

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