Firefighters battle six rural blazes

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 12:37 22/02/2014

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Federated Farmers has called for farmers to be extra vigilant after an outbreak of suspicious blazes in Ashburton this morning.

South Canterbury firefighters were kept busy early this morning battling six fires, four of which may be linked and were being treated as suspicious, Fire Service southern communications centre shift manager Andrew Norris said.

Some of the blazes took more than five hours to control.

Norris said no one was injured, and the fires were all contained to vegetation and the barn.

Federated Farmers spokesman David Clark said if the fires were arson, then the people responsible should be prosecuted if caught.

"Not only is it wanton destruction of feed and shelter that our animals will need, but someone could be die as a consequence.  If there is a road accident or a house fire, then our rural fire fighters will be in the wrong place needlessly fighting deliberately lit fires."

Clark encouraged farmers to have their own equipment to help battle fire near to hand.

"We are also calling on all farmers to be extra vigilant of suspicious vehicles and activity, especially at dusk and at night."

The first fire was just after 4am on Boundary Road in Willowby, south of Ashburton, when a stack of hay bales and a 100 metre hedge ignited.

A fire engine and a tanker were also at the scene of a large barn fire on Tinwald Westerfield Mayfield Road, northwest of Ashburton.

A single tree on Fords Road and hay bales on Stranges Road were also alight earlier this morning, but have since been extinguished.

Two other fires broke out in the region overnight; a bonfire about 10.30pm and a paddock fire about 2.45am, but those were not being treated as suspicious.

Fire brigades from Ashburton, Rakaia, Methven, Geraldine, Mt Somers, Mayfield, Pendarves and Lauriston attended the fires.

A specialist fire investigator was working with police to discover whether the fires were deliberately lit and whether there was any link between them.

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