Rain welcomed by Canterbury firefighters

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
The rain has finally fallen in Canterbury, but fire crews remain at the scene of two major blazes.

More than 100 firefighters and 20 support personnel, five helicopters and heavy machinery made progress at the Port Hills on Monday where hotspots continue to be dampened down.

The major 650-hectare blaze broke out on the hills last week.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Fire and Emergency NZ incident controller Steve Kennedy said about 5mm of rain fell on the fire ground.

Kennedy said overnight crews made "great progress" eliminating many of the hotspots and deep-seated burning at one of the largest skid sites.

"The specialist drone crew continued thermal imaging overnight and has identified further areas that crews will focus on [Tuesday]."

Kennedy said the rain was a welcome relief and will help fire suppression.

"However, it also means conditions will be slippery so access tracks on the steep terrain will be checked before crews start working on some parts of the fire ground.

"Firefighters will again be working with the support of heavy machinery and two helicopters are available.

Kennedy said the fire risk remained extremely high.

Work that generates sparks, which included mowing lawns, should be done earlier in the day when it is cooler, he says.

Meanwhile, 50 firefighters are working to keep the Waikari Valley blaze contained.

Residents were allowed to go home on Monday night but Civil Defence said the fire will keep burning for some time.

"The good news is that there has been significant rain at the Waikari Valley fireground in Hurunui overnight," a Fenz spokesperson said.

"The downside is that we had to bring the crews off the hill for safety. We'll be doing a fly-over this morning to assess the state of the fire and that will inform the next steps for firefighting."

Speaking to Morning Report, Hurunui Mayor Marie Black said she woke to rain this morning which would be a welcome relief to fire crews and the community around Waikari Valley.

She had not had any updates as of yet but said residents who had been allowed home were keeping vigilant for any changes.

Black said she was certain FENZ would be maintaining a watch on the 300-hectare fire as the fire continued to burn underground.

Glenmark Drive resident and farmer Mark Sidey was prepared to leave his home if the blaze escalated, saying there was every chance of a repeat.

"A fire could start any time around here at the moment.

"[I'm] very vigilant on the farm at the moment with my motorbikes and working in the heat of the day just what we're up to, and, talking to a friend a week ago who's too scared to ride a horse around the Port Hills at the moment in case the shoes hit a rock and spark.

-With RNZ