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Large blaze south of Waipara covering five hectares contained; Multiple structures remain under threat, public health warning issued

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A large blaze covering five hectares in North Canterbury tonight has been contained, but multiple structures remain under threat and a public health warning for smoke has been issued to nearby residents.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson earlier told the Herald crews were battling a large vegetation fire on both sides of State Highway 1, south of Waipara.

In an update shortly before 9pm, Fenz said the fire currently sits at five hectares in size and has been contained.

“Fifteen ground crews remain on the scene, while the two helicopters have been stood down for the night. Heavy machinery is on its way to the scene to assist with firefighting efforts,” said Fenz.

Two homes were evacuated and multiple structures remain under threat from the “large scrub fire” near SH1 and the Waipara River in Glasnevin, Hurunui.

“For those who have been evacuated, or are self-evacuating their properties, the Hurunui District Council advises for those on the north side of the Waipara River, there is an evacuation centre at the Waipara Hall, and for those on the south side of the Waipara River, it is the Tin Shed, at Amberley Domain,” Fenz said.

A witness told the Herald they were travelling from Waiau to Christchurch when they noticed flames engulfing large trees.

“The fire travelled fast, probably with the wind and heat. It started on just a couple of trees then from what I could see [it] jumped over the bridge,” they said.

The witness said traffic was backed all the way up on Omihi Rd.

SH1 remains closed, and is expected to be for some time. Commuters are asked to plan for extensive delays, particularly if they are travelling north.

“The road is closed to north and southbound traffic whilst Fire and Emergency crews respond to the blaze,” police said earlier.

Smoke from a large vegetation fire on both sides of State Highway 1, south of Waipara. Photo / Supplied
Smoke from a large vegetation fire on both sides of State Highway 1, south of Waipara. Photo / Supplied

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said crews are battling a large vegetation fire on both sides of State Highway 1, south of Waipara.
A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said crews are battling a large vegetation fire on both sides of State Highway 1, south of Waipara.

Health NZ – Te Whatu Ora National Public Health Service has issued a public health warning for smoke from the fire.

Air around the region is smoky and there is potential that people who are sensitive to smoke – such as those with heart or lung conditions, people who are pregnant, young children and the elderly – may experience symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath or eye, nose and throat irritation.

National Public Health Service medical officer Dr Cheryl Brunton said exposure to smoke can worsen pre-existing health conditions such as heart and lung disease.

“People affected by the smoke should close windows and doors and reduce outdoor exercise.”

Fenz said people are advised to avoid the area, and those impacted by smoke should close their windows and doors, and stay inside.

Residents are advised to call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if they have any related health concerns or experience any respiratory difficulties as a result of smoke.

Health NZ – Te Whatu Ora advises residents to:

  • Keep your windows and doors shut.
  • Switch your air conditioning to ‘recirculate’.
  • Air out your house when the smoke clears.
  • Look out for children, older people, and others at risk.
  • Keep pets inside with clean water and food. Keep pets’ bedding inside if possible.

Second large Canterbury fire in days

It comes after fire crews battled a huge forest fire outside Christchurch on Sunday night that swept through 80 hectares of pine forest, scrub and farmland.

Ten houses were evacuated after the fire near the Waimakariri River engulfed huge pine trees within seconds.

Seven helicopters and eight fresh crews of firefighters were brought in yesterday morning.

Firefighters dampen down hotspots in the burnt forest at Kirwee in north Canterbury. Photo / FENZ
Firefighters dampen down hotspots in the burnt forest at Kirwee in north Canterbury. Photo / FENZ

An aerial inspection after first light confirmed that there had been no buildings damaged or livestock lost.

On Monday afternoon Fenz said the large blaze was under control.

Kirwee local Derek Anson was evacuated around 11pm-11.30pm with a neighbour suddenly knocking on his door.

He made three trips, grabbing what he needed, before retreating to the township and spending a restless night “sitting under a tree watching the flames and the smoke”.

An aerial view of burnt forest near Kirwee in Canterbury. Photo / FENZ
An aerial view of burnt forest near Kirwee in Canterbury. Photo / FENZ

A few times in the night, when he saw the night skies light up with flare-ups, he wondered aloud to a friend, “Is that my place?”

Anson, however, praised the firefighters for their sterling work and when he was told that his property was safe, responded, “Thank god.”

Fenz earlier urged people to be careful over Waitangi weekend as soaring temperatures and gusty winds raised the risk of fires to high and extreme danger levels in many areas across the country.

“The combination of dry conditions, high temperatures and strong winds through parts of Canterbury add to the fire risk for the region. It’s important to keep up with the information from the team at Fire & Emergency NZ and consult their website checkitsalright.co.nz,” said MetService meteorologist John Law.

Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.





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