Another scrub fire for on-edge crews

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 10:11 13/01/2013
Selwyn District fire
Fairfax NZ

AFTERMATH: Crews dampening down after blazes in Selwyn District that destroyed homes and killed livestock.

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Canterbury firefighters already on high alert have been kept busy by a new scrub fire near Christchurch overnight.

About two hectares of grass and scrub near McLeans Island Rd was burned after fire ignited just before midnight.

Fire Service spokesman Brent Dunn said 18 fire appliances were sent to the fire, near the Christchurch Pistol Club premises.

No residents were evacuated and the fire was now under control, but four crews remained on site "dampening down and cleaning up".

Dunn said the cause of the fire was still unknown and a rural fire safety officer was investigating today.

Fire crews today remained at the site of Thursday's fire near Prebbleton to dampen hot spots and "knock down" any flare-ups.

Shift supervisor Riwai Grace said firefighters were given respite from the heavy workload yesterday, but were ready in case more fires broke out.

"All it takes is for the wind to change and bang, we're away."

Christchurch temperatures are expected to reach 29 degrees Celsius today, with hot nor-westerly winds fanning the city. However, some light rain is expected this afternoon, followed by a cooling south-westerly wind.

MetService duty forecaster Ian Gall said the wind change could bring a small amount of rain, and "cloudy periods with lightish winds" could be expected tomorrow.

"Not much respite, is what it amounts to, " he said.

Thursday's blaze near Prebbleton, in the Selwyn district, destroyed at least two houses and tore across 150 hectares of scrub and paddocks.

No one was injured, but the fire killed 18,000 laying hens and a number of livestock.

It could take fire investigators two or three weeks to establish the cause, but it was believed to have started on private land behind the Wheatsheaf Quarry in Selwyn Rd.

A second major scrub fire, near West Melton on Friday, forced the evacuation of about 300 people from a nearby raceway and blackened up to 100 hectares of pine plantation.

Fire crews returned to the site yesterday morning after it began smouldering again, Grace said.

Reports of two fires within Bottle Lake Forest Park yesterday prompted nine crews to race to the scene, but the suspected smoke turned out to be dust.

Most of Canterbury is under fire restrictions, including Selwyn, where most of the blazes have broken out this past week.

Grace said anyone using anything that could cause a spark, including machinery such as grinders or welders, should take care. He also warned anyone considering setting off fireworks: "If you do start a fire, you are legally liable to pay for it."

Firefighters have also been kept busy with blazes in other parts of Canterbury. On Friday scrub fires broke out in Cust, Sockburn, Belfast and Ashburton, and a house was extensively damaged by fire in Bishopdale.

On Thursday, a suspicious fire gutted an Akaroa bakery, and police were speaking to a child following a fire at Beckenham School's library.

The Selwyn District Council has set up a fund to help those affected by the fires. Those wishing to help can email or donate online.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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