Firefighters battle night-time blaze
Rural fire crews have spent all night fighting to contain a blaze which erupted south of Blenheim early this morning.
Fire crews were alerted to the fire near Seventeen Valley, off State Highway 1 near the entrance to Weld Pass, at 1.30am and spent the night attacking the blaze.
At one stage the blaze had a 2 kilometre perimeter and was spread across nearly 8 hectares of tinder-dry grass and scrub.
Memories of the devastating Boxing Day 2000 fire which swept through the Wither Hills were fresh in the firefighters' minds as they battled the blaze. The weary crews from the Blenheim and Awatere rural fire services were looking forward to a break this morning when fresh fire crews were due to take their place.
Rural fire chief Richard McNamara said this morning they would spend the next 48 hours making sure the fire was contained. A helicopter was on site and would be used to check the area this morning, and fire crews would spend today and possibly tomorrow patrolling the area to make sure there were no flare-ups.
The area was tinder dry and there was manuka and kanuka on the ground which had been left in the wake of the 2000 fires, said McNamara.
He praised the efforts of the farmers in the area, Dave Western and Paul Kemp, who had been out all night assisting the fire crews. Kemp had brought in his own spray unit to help fight the fire.
The area had been difficult to access at night, but the fire crews had managed to get on top of the situation, helped by the lack of wind and a reasonably heavy dew.
The Marlborough Express