Homes evacuated due to large vegetation fire

Three households self-evacuated early on Thursday morning as firefighters battled a large vegetation fire north of Christchurch.

Early this morning at least 60 firefighters were working on the fire at Masons Flat in Hurunui and heavy machinery was brought in to help. 

Fire and Emergency NZ said three houses were evacuated but the occupants of one home have returned. 

At the height of the blaze, more than 15 fire trucks and tankers were on site from the Hawarden, Waikari, Hurunui, Culverden, Waiau, Woodend, Rangiora, Waipara, Amberley, Scargill, Wigram and Cheviot stations. 

Fenz response co-ordinator Brian Keown said the blaze is now contained but firefighters expect to be at the scene all day.

"The fire was reported shortly after midnight and swiftly escalated to a third alarm, bringing in crews from 14 brigades.

"The fire is now contained and one household has returned home this morning but the other two are waiting until fire-damaged trees have been felled."

Keown said the underlying fire danger remains high in rural Canterbury and the amount of rain currently forecast for coastal areas may not change that.

"It’s not unusual for us to be dealing with flooding in one part of our region and fires in another," Keown said.

"It’s understandable that people might see the rain warnings and think that the wildfire risk has finished, but what happened in Hurunui overnight is a clear reminder that the threat remains for now."

Banks Peninsula, Christchurch city and most of the high country are still in a prohibited fire season, while the Canterbury Plains, north of the Rakaia River, is in a restricted season.

Keown said anyone considering lighting an outdoor fire should go to first.