A major forestry fire in Canterbury’s Selwyn District has forced people out of more than 10 properties as smoke billowed over “much of Christchurch”.
As the fire crews wrested the fire near Kirwee under control, word came through of another potential blaze.
Fire and Emergency (FENZ) has sent a helicopter from the Kirwee fire across the Waimakariri River to Eagle Hill near Oxford to assess another fire which has reportedly started.
It was not yet known how large the Oxford fire was.
At the original flare-up, Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) received multiple calls to the blaze on Old West Coast Rd close to the Waimakariri River shortly before 10pm on Sunday night.
In an update on Monday afternoon, FENZ Incident Controller Dave Berry said 50 firefighters supported by three helicopters and heavy machinery had made “good progress” at the fire ground and were now working to suppress the perimeter of the fire.
“The large vegetation fire that burnt through pines and scrub in an area estimated at 2.5km long and 500m wide, is now under control,” he said.
An aerial inspection this morning confirmed no buildings were damaged and nor were any livestock caught up in the fire, which burned 80 hectares of pine plantation, scrub and some farmland beside the Waimakariri River.
Last night, an estimated 10 properties on Old West Coast Road were evacuated as a precaution, while several other households self-evacuated.
Berry said Monday’s hot and windy weather will create extreme fire behaviour if any new fires start. He asked everyone in Canterbury to take great care with any activities that could cause any sparks and start another fire.
“Our crews have managed to contain and control the fire, and are now working on suppressing the perimeter,” Berry said this afternoon.
“This afternoon they will continue work to remove dangerous trees, extinguish any deep-seated burning and deal with any spot fires,” he said.
In an earlier update, FENZ said the blaze had scorched about 80 hectares of pine plantation, scrub and farmland.
“Houses along Old West Coast Rd between Cooks Rd and Courtenay Rd were evacuated by police as a precaution last night.”
“Many others” nearby evacuated of their own accord, FENZ added. So far, no damage to homes has been reported.
“The fire is spreading quickly in strong winds and firefighters are carrying out structure protection. Conditions are challenging,” a FENZ spokesperson said last night.
Roadblocks were in place and anyone outside the evacuation area who felt unsafe was urged to leave.
Incident Controller Dave Key said firefighters at the scene were focused on protecting structures and preventing spot fires.
“Anyone whose life or safety is at risk should call 111.
“Selwyn District Emergency Management has opened an evacuation centre in the Kirwee Community Hall in High St, Kirwee for those who are unable to go to family or friends.”
A meeting has been organised for evacuated residents at the hall at 11am this morning.
“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.”
People were asked to avoid the area.
“There is also a ban on flying drones anywhere near the fireground.”
Fiery start to 2024 for the area
The overnight blaze follows two major blazes in the Kirwee area last month.
On January 7, fires sparked by a freight train threatened homes between Aylesbury and Darfield west of Christchurch.
The blaze put homes at risk – though ultimately no properties were damaged.
On January 11, another major fire broke out in a pine plantation near the south bank of the Waimakariri River.