NZ Local News

North Canterbury firefighters battle to save buildings from scrub fires, more than 100 firefighters on site in Loburn

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Three homes and a church have been lost in today’s North Canterbury blazes, while firefighters continue their battle to save buildings still under threat after residents evacuated.

A Fenz spokesperson said the fire in Loburn, near Rangiora is approximately 10 hectares in size and four helicopters remain in operation alongside 20 trucks and 100 firefighters.

“Evacuations have taken place and cordons remain in place. Evacuated residents are advised to go to the Rangiora Showgrounds.

“A number of structures have been impacted. More structures still remain under threat and crews are working hard to protect them.”

About 50 properties have been evacuated from the Loburn area, Newshub reported, while several structures have also been destroyed.

Fire and Emergency district commander Rob Hands told Newstalk ZB that three homes and a church had been lost in the Loburn fire.

”Fire investigators will be working with the land owners tomorrow to determine the cause of the fire,” he said.

Hands said there are 40 trucks, more than 100 crew and six helicopters fighting the fires.

”Unfortunately we have lost three houses and a church and there will probably be more confirmed.”

He said crews will remain at the Loburn fire overnight to ensure it doesn’t spread.

”We’re planning for a number of crews to come in tomorrow to complete the mop up.”

Loburn resident Sarah Rowbotham and other locals scrambled to rescue horses from a nearby field as the fire spread.

”We just got in and did it, you don’t think about what’s around you just to get them to safety,” she said.

”[A post] was put up for help and we were right there so we got our float and another ladies up the road so it could be done in one hit. Okuku/Loburn is a fantastic community like that.

”Rowbotham told the Herald they moved the horses around 1km with the wind blowing away from them.

”The horses were petrified of the helicopters so took a bit of catching”

Meanwhile, heavy machinery has been brought in to support firefighters and two helicopters, which are working to put out the fire at Amberley.

Fenz will continue to monitor the Amberley site overnight.

Fire and Emergency Assistant Commander Des Irving said about 18 fire crews and tankers supported by three helicopters had confined the fire to an area about 1km long by 600m wide.

“It’s likely firefighters will still be at the scene overnight because of the increasing winds,” he said.

“Cordons remain in place and people are asked to stay well away from the area to let our crews focus on their work.

“Residents who were evacuated from the area near the fireground are being allowed managed access to their properties by Police and Fire and Emergency personnel.”

In a 4.45pm post, Fenz confirmed Racecourse Rd evacuees can start returning home, however, the situation could still escalate and people should be prepared to evacuate if the fire flares up again.

Residents near the Loburn fire rush to evacuate horses as smoke fills the air. Photo / John Cosgrove / ODT
Residents near the Loburn fire rush to evacuate horses as smoke fills the air. Photo / John Cosgrove / ODT

Earlier today, crews were alerted to the fire about1.20pm when multiple tankers and three helicopters responded to the blaze, which was burning through tree stumps, grass, tyres and car wrecks.

In a post on its Facebook post, the Hurunui District Council has advised those evacuated from Racecourse Rd to head to Hurunui Library.

Meanwhile, Fenz crews say some resources are being redeployed to fires burning at Loburn, near Rangiora.

“Three helicopters are also fighting four vegetation fires on Loburn Whiterock Rd.”

The Loburn fire is estimated to be 1km by 500 metres in size. Photo / John Cosgrove / ODT
The Loburn fire is estimated to be 1km by 500 metres in size. Photo / John Cosgrove / ODT

Crews have been fighting four vegetation fires on Loburn Whiterock Rd, near Loburn.
Crews have been fighting four vegetation fires on Loburn Whiterock Rd, near Loburn.

Police were evacuating houses, while eight fire trucks and three tankers were working on the fires, estimated to cover about a square kilometre.

Residents are asked to follow the instructions of emergency services.

Fenz are also urging Canterbury residents to take extreme care with all activities that could cause a spark that will set vegetation on fire, with winds forecast to get stronger tomorrow.

Fenz region manager Brad Mosby said today’s major fires show how fast fires develop and how difficult it can be for firefighters to bring them under control in these conditions.

”Without speculating on the cause of today’s fires, it’s clear that this is the time for everyone to be extremely careful,” Mosby said.

Most of the mid and upper South Island is in a prohibited fire season, meaning no open fires are allowed. All fire permits are being suspended in the rest of Canterbury until 8am Monday because of the ongoing risk.

Fire and Emergency’s Regional Coordination Centre in Christchurch has been activated to support the multiple incidents, including on the West Coast where brigades are ready to assist with flooding.



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