Firefighters have contained a large vegetation fire which has closed part of State Highway 1, south of Waipara, North Canterbury.
A Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) spokesperson told 1News that 15 ground crews are currently fighting the fire, while the two helicopters that were assisting from the air have been stood down for the night.
FENZ confirmed two homes were evacuated, with multiple structures “remaining under threat”.
“The fire currently sits at five hectares in size.
“Heavy machinery is on its way to the scene to assist with firefighting efforts”.
The blaze was burning on both sides of the highway.
FENZ also advised residents of where to go should they choose to evacuate their properties.
“The Hurunui District Council advises for those on the north side of the Waipara River, there is an evacuation centre at the Waipara Hall. For those on the south side of the Waipara River it is the Tin Shed, at Amberley Domain,” it said.
Police said the road near State Highway 1 and the Waipara River in Glasnevin, Hurunui is closed to north and southbound traffic, with motorists being asked to avoid the area and use alternative routes.
A 1News reporter at the scene said the road was blocked in both directions with cars backed up all the way through Amberley township.
Waka Kotahi confirmed in a post to X that SH1 is closed between Watties Road and the Waipara River Bridge.
A motorist waiting in the traffic said the wind was blowing their way but that everything “seems calm”.
“It is coming my way, but now we got backed up by 4 [or] 5 kilometres,” he said.
Public health warning issued
Just before 10pm, Te Whatu Ora National Public Health Service issued a public health warning for residents impacted by smoke from the fire.
“Air around this location is smoky and there is potential that people who are sensitive to smoke — such as those with heart or lung conditions, people who are pregnant, young children and the elderly — may experience symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath or eye, nose and throat irritation,” the statement said.
Medical Officer of Health National Public Health Service Dr Cheryl Brunton said exposure to smoke can worsen pre-existing health conditions such as heart and lung disease.
“People affected by the smoke should close windows and doors and reduce outdoor exercise,” she said.
Te Whatu Ora advised to keep windows and doors shut, switch air conditioning to ‘recirculate’ and air out the house when the smoke clears and it is safe to do so.