Fire crews worked late into last night battling major blazes north of Christchurch and near Oamaru after a succession of South Island firesyesterday. Canterbury firefighters endured a hectic day as they fought fires in Cheviot, Amberley, Spencerville and near Chaneys Corner.
The Spencerville and Chaneys Corner blazes the two largest were centred near large plantations of trees, and fire officials were deeply concerned strong northwest winds might fan the flames enough for both blazes to join up into one large inferno. The Spencerville fire, at the northern end of Bottle Lake Forest Park, was just a few kilometres from the scene of a major fire last week that scorched about 20 ha of scrub and sand-dunes near the southern end of Bottle Lake plantation.
Police believe that fire was deliberately lit, and last night rural fire investigators suspected the latest blaze was also arson.
Fire crews called in four helicopters with monsoon buckets and a fixed-wing plane to spray fire retardant to fight the 20 ha Spencerville blaze.
Hot and dry conditions with high northwest winds propelled the scrubland fire down a front of about 1km along the beach area south of Spencer Beach Holiday Park.
Eight Fire Service tankers were used to fight the blaze, as well as four reinforcement tankers from Burnham Military Camp and Rural Fire Service crew andequipment.
Less than 5 km from the Spencerville blaze, scores of Fire Service and army crews fought to control a fire in ChaneysPlantation. At its peak the fire covered an area of about 2 ha, but no homes werethreatened. The fire had jumped a railway track running across the top of theplantation.