More than 100 firefighters and several helicopters have been battling fires across Canterbury as authorities warn that strong winds are expected to worsen tomorrow.
MetService reported “hot and windy” conditions across the east of the South Island today, with a brief lull expected overnight.
But winds are forecast to get stronger tomorrow, which means Canterbury residents are being urged to take “extreme care” with activities that could cause a spark.
A spokesperson for Fire and Emergency (FENZ) said today’s blazes near Loburn and around Amberley had been contained as of around 5.45pm.
Multiple fires on Loburn Whiterock Rd, near Loburn, had been estimated to cover 10 hectares, and residents remain evacuated.
Around 100 firefighters are continuing to battle the fire, with four helicopters and 20 trucks in operation, according to FENZ.
“Evacuations have taken place and cordons remain in place. Evacuated residents are advised to go to the Rangiora Showgrounds.
“A number of structures have been impacted. More structures still remain under threat and crews are working hard to protect them. Nearby residents who may be affected by smoke should close windows and doors and reduce outdoor exercise.”
Gusty winds across the east of the South Island are expected to ease overnight, but pick up again tomorrow, according to MetService.
The forecaster said it had been a “hot and windy day” across the region.
An earlier vegetation fire burning in Amberley has now also been contained, with some residents returning to their homes.
Firefighters are still working to put out the blaze entirely.
“Heavy machinery has been brought in to support firefighters and two helicopters, which are working to put out the fire at Amberley,” a FENZ spokesperson said.
Just after 5pm, a resident who was evacuated from Racecourse Road about two hours earlier, told 1News they were being allowed to return to their home.
Fire and Emergency said cordons are still in place but residents are being provided “managed access” to return.
“Cordons remain in place and people are asked to stay well away from the area to let our crews focus on their work.
“Residents who were evacuated from the area… are being allowed managed access to their properties by police and FENZ personnel.”
Earlier, FENZ assistant commander Des Irving said 18 fire appliances and tankers supported by helicopters had confined the fire to an area about 1km long by 600m wide.
“It was challenging at times, but the crews have worked very hard to contain the fire.”
Firefighters are likely to stay at the Amberley scene overnight due to increasing winds, however, some resources are being redeployed to the fires burning at Loburn.
Extreme care needed this weekend — authorities
FENZ region manager Brad Mosby said the “major fires” today had shown “how fast fires develop and how difficult it can be for firefighters to bring them under control”.
“Without speculating on the cause of today’s fires, it’s clear that this is the time for everyone to be extremely careful,” he said.
A spokesperson added: “Most of the mid and upper South Island is in a prohibited fire season, meaning no open fires are allowed. All fire permits are being suspended in the rest of Canterbury until 8am Monday because of the ongoing risk.”
FENZ’s regional coordination centre in Christchurch has been activated to support the multiple incidents, including on the West Coast where brigades can assist with flooding.