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Fire crews 'working through the night' as blazes burn across South Island

Jun 01, 2024

Fire crews will be working through the night after multiple scrub fires broke out in Canterbury on Saturday.

About five blazes are still burning throughout the region and homes have been evacuated in Amberley, Waipara and Broomfield.

Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) mid-south Canterbury district manager Rob Hands earlier said the blazes were widespread, particularly in Canterbury, and being fanned by strong winds that could cause them to spread quickly.

Two outhouses and a caravan had been destroyed in Amberley.

On Saturday evening, Hands said firefighters had successfully contained some of the fires by about 5pm, but would be working through the night.

Helicopters and fire crews from Tekapō, Burkes Pass, Timaru and Twizel had brought under control a fire that had been burning in tussock and pine trees near Tekapō.

Reduced crews were finishing mop-up at the site, and would continue to monitor the fire.

But there were still hours of work ahead for North Canterbury staff and volunteers, he said.

"Amberley and Springfield are the ones that are going to be working through the night. Amberley is probably the more significant.

"Waipara is somewhat contained and controlled - crews are just hoping to clean that up today,"

Homes evacuated

Five houses were earlier evacuated in Amberley, and an evacuation centre had been set up in the town.

Residents of a house in Waipara had also been forced to leave.

Hurunui District Mayor Marie Black said residents in Broomfield had been evacuated from their homes in Racecourse Road, east of Mt Brown Road, due to a vegetation fire there.

Volunteer firefighters had travelled from up to 30km away to help to contain the blazes, and it was all hands on deck at the emergency welfare centre, she said.

"The welfare centre is at what we call the Tin Shed, which is a community building in Amberley.

"We will be doing everything to make sure that people are safe and that the impact on their lives will be reduced as best we can."

Black urged people to stay away from the fires so that volunteer crews could do their jobs safely.

They were a "wonderful" team and she admired them all, she said.

The community always pulled together in an emergency, she added.

Firefighters plead for no more outdoor fires

Water being dropped on a scrub fire from a helicopter at Mt Brown Road in Broomfield. Photo: Supplied/ Canterbury Fire and Emergency

FENZ urged South Islanders not to burn any fires outdoors due to the high winds, and to thoroughly put out any fires already burning.

Hands said earlier there were fears the flames would spread rapidly as they were being buffeted by high winds.

The weather conditions were making it hard work for firefighters, he said.

"We were forecasting strong wind warnings this weekend... and that's what's happened. We've got wind anywhere from over 100km [down] to 60km/h on these fire sites."

MetService earlier on Saturday warned of "severe gale west to northwesterlies" for southern parts of the country.

Strong wind watches were in force for Inland Canterbury Plains, Queenstown Lakes District, Central Otago, Stewart Island and coastal parts of mainland Southland, Clutha and Dunedin, as well as southern parts of the North Island.

"A front over the south of the South Island continues to move northeast. The front is bringing a period of heavy rain to Westland, and severe gale west to northwesterlies to parts of central and southern New Zealand.

"Watches and warnings for heavy rain and severe gales are in force. People are advised to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and check for areas being added or upgraded."

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