Fires flare in South Island as high winds, hot temperatures ignite blazes


January 31, 2020 - 52 views
Strong winds and hot weather are in store for New Zealand.

Three helicopters have been bought in to battle a 150 hectare fire in rural South Canterbury.

The fire at Burkes Pass, between Tekapo and Fairlie alongside State Highway 8, started about 4am on Friday and is one of more than 20 vegetation fires in the South Island overnight fanned by high winds and hot temperatures.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Mid-South Canterbury area commander Steven Greenyer said the blaze had burned through about 150 hectares of forest and scrub.

Firefighters fought multiple vegetation fires in the South Island overnight (file photo).
MARTIN DE RUYTER
Firefighters fought multiple vegetation fires in the South Island overnight (file photo).

Three helicopters - with two others on standby - were fighting the blaze as well as multiple ground crews and machinery.

"We'll be here a good part of the day or all day."

Fire crews were extremely busy on Thursday night and Friday morning (file photo).
JOHN BISSET/STUFF
Fire crews were extremely busy on Thursday night and Friday morning (file photo).

Residents in the area may have to evacuate later in the day, he said.

The fire is alongside State Highway 8 but the road was not closed.

"The road is open but there is activity on the road so motorists need to be careful."

It's time to hit the beaches, as much of the country is set to bake in sweltering temperatures this weekend.

The fire has also cut power to the Burkes Pass-Kimbell area as Alpine Energy reported power outages in South Canterbury in at least 14 areas all caused by the high overnight winds.

Outages began at 11.19pm on Thursday with the lights going out in in Balmoral, Mobiles Plain, Braemar, Ferintosh, Glentanner, Mt Cook, and Tasman Downs.

Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Kimbell, Hazelburn, Opihi, and Totara Valley followed suit on Friday morning.

Power was restored to all places except Burkes Pass and Kimbell by about 5am Friday.

Firefighters were also kept busy in other parts of Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

Ten crews and a command unit were called to a fire on Tanks Rd in Mayfield, west of Ashburton about 10.20pm on Thursday.

Firefighters fought a fire that was about 250 metres long and 25m deep.

Another blaze flared up at Ahuriri Flat near Kaka Point in the Catlins, about 8pm on Thursday.

Eight crews attended and two remained at sunrise.

On Rolling Ridges Rd, in Levels Valley near Timaru, seven crews battled a hedge fire just after midnight on Friday.

Fenz spokesman Lyn Crosson told RNZ some old burnoffs had been smouldering for weeks and reignited last night in the high winds. 

A total fire ban was imposed in Canterbury on Saturday across the Hurunui, Waimakariri, Christchurch and Selwyn districts, about a month earlier than last year. 

Fires were banned in the Clutha and Central Otago districts on Thursdayas the fire danger increased for the parched region.

A prohibited fire season was in place in Central Otago and Southland, barring all fire types including welding, grinding, chainsaw use and mowing roadsides until further notice.

MetService forecast a strong wind warning to 9am on Friday for the Canterbury high country. Southland and Otago had wind warnings in place until 3am and 6am on Friday respectively.

This weekend is expected to be the hottest so far this year in Canterbury, with Timaru, Ashburton and Christchurch forecast for 33-34 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

Temperatures were due to hit the mid to high 20s in Otago and Southland at the weekend.

MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo​ Makgabutlane​ said a persistent north west flow was bringing hot weather across the Tasman Sea from Australia.

She advised people to limit their time spent outdoors, use sunscreen and drink lots of water.

People are advised to visit checkitsalright.nz for information on fire seasons in their area.

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