A huge forest fire near Kirwee has been contained with no loss of buildings or livestock - but seven helicopters and firefighting crews are still working on the blaze as temperatures soar above 30 deg C today.
Homes were evacuated last night after the fire on Old West Coast Rd near Kirwee in the Selwyn District swept through 80 hectares of pine forest, scrub and farmland.
The residents were given the green light to return to their properties late this morning.
Fire and Emergency incident controller Dave Berry said it has been working with Selwyn District Council’s emergency management team and police to provide support to impacted residents.
Fire crews have been battling the blaze since about 10pm on Sunday.
Seven helicopters and eight fresh crews of firefighters were brought in this morning.
An aerial inspection after first light confirmed no buildings had been damaged or livestock lost.
This morning, Fenz gave an update for the evacuated residents at a community meeting at Kirwee Community Hall at 11am.
Berry said the hot and windy weather this week will fan the extreme fire behaviour if any new blazes start.
He asked everyone in Canterbury to take great care with any activities that could cause any sparks and start another fire.
An estimated 10 properties on Old West Coast Rd were evacuated as a precaution last night, while several other households self-evacuated.
At the community meeting, Berry told the residents they were able to return home.
“Crews are working hard to extinguish the fire, but it is very deep-seated in places, so it will take some time,” said Berry.
“Crews will remain on site today. Roadblocks will be lifted, and the road will be opened from midday, at a reduced speed.
“We would like to thank the public and the community for staying clear of the fire ground, which has allowed our crews to work at containing the fire.
“We ask that public continue to avoid the area to allow our crews to continue to operate safely.”
Fire investigators are in attendance, and will work to establish the cause of the fire over the coming days.
Kirwee local Derek Anson was evacuated around 11pm-11.30pm with a neighbour suddenly knocking on his door.
He made three trips, grabbing what he needed, before retreating to the township and spending a restless night “sitting under a tree watching the flames and the smoke”.
A few times in the night, when he saw the night skies light up with flare-ups, he wondered aloud to a friend, “Is that my place?”
Anson, however, praised the firefighters for their sterling work and when he was told that his property was said, responded, “Thank god.”
Fenz earlier said many people in and around Christchurch would be waking to a lot of smoke this morning.
“We recommend that people who are nearer to the fire ground stay indoors and keep their doors and windows shut to reduce their exposure to the smoke.”
The Canterbury region is in for a scorching hot and windy day with a forecast high of 31C for Kirwee, which has already faced a number of fires this year.
A statement early this morning from Fire and Emergency NZ acknowledged many people would be anxious.
Crews were working hard to protect houses and prevent spot fires.
An evacuation centre has been set up at the hall by Selwyn emergency management for those who can’t stay with family or friends.
“Smoke from the fire is covering a wide area, including much of Christchurch. If you are affected by smoke, stay inside and keep doors and windows shut to minimise exposure.”
FENZ incident controller Graham Knight told Morning Report today firefighters would be hampered by the weather, with strong northwest winds and temperatures topping 30 degrees expected.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation, Knight said this morning.
Fire was ‘spreading rapidly, very thick smoke’
A witness last night told the Herald huge pine trees were engulfed in flames within seconds.
Police evacuated multiple houses in the area as the fire spread and established a road block, stopping all traffic.
“The wind is blowing strongly and the fire is actively moving towards the coast. It’s spread a good kilometre or more now," the witness said.
“It’s spreading rapidly, very thick smoke."
Crews from Kirwee, Darfield South, Darfield, West Melton, Rolleston and Wigram were in attendance last night.