Scrub fire in Canterbury contained, SH1 reopens

A major scrub fire in Canterbury’s Hurunui district has been contained, with multiple crews keeping the five-hectare blaze under control overnight.

Fifteen crews have been attending the vegetation fire in Glasnevin, close to the Waipara River, since it started before 7pm on February 6.

The fire was threatening multiple structures last night and was burning on both sides of State Highway 1, forcing the closure of the highway.

Several residents were required to evacuate last night, while some who chose to leave their homes had been able to return, according to an 11.40pm update from Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz).

A single lane of State Highway 1 reopened late last night with traffic control in place, Fenz said.

The fire would be assessed at daybreak and more crews will arrive this morning to complete mop-up and extinguish the fire.

Mainpower says 12 customers remain without electricity, as the area has been isolated at the request of Fenz.

“We will assess for repair once the fire is under control,” the company said on its website last night.

While the fire is contained, Health NZ - Te Whatu Ora has issued a public health warning, saying people who were sensitive to smoke may experience coughing, shortness of breath or eye, nose and throat irritation.

A photo taken from the air on February 6 shows the fire has burnt through areas on both sides of...
A photo taken from the air on February 6 shows the fire has burnt through areas on both sides of State Highway 1. Photo: Supplied
A witness told the Herald they were travelling from Waiau to Christchurch when they saw flames engulfing large trees.

“The fire travelled fast, probably with the wind and heat. It started on just a couple of trees then from what I could see [it] jumped over the bridge,” they said.

Late last night Fenz incident controller Des Irving thanked those who had been stuck due to the road closure for their patience.

”We appreciate this has caused disruption for people, but the safety of both the public and our crews is always the priority.

”We had power poles on fire near the road, an active fire and large amounts of smoke, but the road has now been made safe enough for one lane to open.”

Motorists should be extremely careful driving through the area, and speed restrictions are in place.

Irving also thanked Waka Kotahi - New Zealand Transport Agency, police, Civil Defence and the Hurunui District Council for their help.

For the past week there has been a complete fire ban in Canterbury. Local crews have been battling multiple vegetation fires including a huge blaze in pines and scrub in Kirwee.

Efforts to extinguish that fire are now into their third day, with Fenz incident controller Brian Keown telling TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning around 60 people were still on scene.

The region is under extreme fire risk. Keown said minimal rain was forecast for Canterbury in the next 5-6 weeks and some of the hottest weather was still to come.