Evacuations as crews battle Hurunui fire

Fifteen crews were battling the fire last night. Photo: NZ Herald
Fifteen crews were battling the fire last night. Photo: NZ Herald
Firefighters have been battling through the night to get on top of a fresh scrub fire in north Canterbury which has forced the evacuation of several homes.

Emergency services were called just after 8pm to the large “fast-moving” blaze that was burning through gorse and scrub near Waikari Valley Rd in the Hurunui district.

Two helicopters are joining their efforts this morning, ahead of forecast high winds for Canterbury which could whip up the fire further today.

Its the second large fire to break out within a week in the region; crews are still working to extinguish a massive blaze on the Port Hills that broke out on Wednesday.

A helicopter is also being sent to fight a grass fire which was reported this morning at Seddon, Marlborough.

In a 4.30am update Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) said crews had been “actively fighting” the Waikari fire overnight, establishing fire breaks around affected properties.

Residents of Glenmark Drive and Shell Rock Road had been unable to return home. Those on Sealeys Direct Rd were set to leave their homes but were able to stay after the fire changed direction.

A helicopter prepares to take off to join firefighters battling the fire in Waikari Valley. Photo...
A helicopter prepares to take off to join firefighters battling the fire in Waikari Valley. Photo: NZ Herald
An evacuation centre has been set up at Waipara Community Hall.

“Anyone whose life or safety is at risk should call 111. If you feel unsafe at home you are advised to self evacuate,” Fenz said.

Late last night Fenz reported 15 crews along with a bulldozer were fighting the fire as it moved through “difficult terrain”. Two helicopters are also on standby and will take to the air at first light, when a new update will also be issued.

Hurunui District Council said there would be a meeting at the Waikari Memorial Hall at 9am this morning for affected residents and evacuees.

Grass fire in Seddon, Marlborough

A helicopter and around five fire crews have been fighting a grass fire in Seddon in Marlborough since early this morning.

Fenz southern district shift manager Simon Lyford said the fire was first reported around 5.30am, with four crews initially sent in response.

When they arrived the fire had spread over an area around 200m x 40m. The crews requested a helicopter and two additional tankers, which are en route. The fire is still considered under control.

High winds forecast for Christchurch

Gusty, dry northwesterly winds are set to strengthen for Christchurch and surrounding areas this afternoon as fire crews continue to fight the north Canterbury fire as well as moving into their sixth day of the Port Hills fire.

Half of the hotspots across the Port Hills fireground were “eliminated” yesterday. Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) incident controller Steve Kennedy said the day shift had put in a big effort to cool 28 of the 58 hotspots that had been pinpointed by drones.

Fire crews were staying on overnight to reduce the risk of flare-ups in the high winds that are expected today, Kennedy said.

MetService meteorologist Gerrard Bellam last night said Canterbury High Country would be under a wind warning until 3pm this afternoon.

“The severe northwest gale in these areas could gust up to 130km/h in exposed places, but it will be a short and sharp spell of wind.”

The east of the South Island can expect high 20C-plus temperatures, but temperatures are likely to then drop significantly in the afternoon, Bellam said.

A front would bring a cooler southerly change for Christchurch in the evening followed by showers.