Gale-force winds fan bushfire

Gale-force winds fan bushfire

28 July 2011

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New Zealand — Gale-force winds could hamper efforts to extinguish a large bushfire near the Waimakariri River.

Canterbury firefighters have used heavy machinery to try and contain a large bushfire near the Waimakariri River.

The fire started about 6.30pm yesterday on the south side of the Waimakariri Bridge near Sheffield, and was burning through about 137 hectares of bush and scrub. An original estimate stating it had burnt 60 hectares of bush were incorrect.

Senior fire control officer Tony Teeling, of the Department of Conservation, Canterbury, said firefighters were able to contain the blaze soon after midnight but were still struggling to put it out.

The fire had been “problematic” to control because of wind and darkness, and crews used heavy machinery, including bulldozers, to contain the fire.

Sixty-five people, including Selwyn District Council and Department of Conservation fire officers, were working to strengthen the containment lines around the fire today using several four-wheel-drive tankers, two bulldozers, one digger and a helicopter.

“We’ll slowly kill it,” Teeling said.

“The wind is expected to turn gale force this afternoon, so we’re working really fast to strengthen those containment lines.”

Firefighters expected to have that work completed by this evening, and the fire should be fully extinguished by tomorrow afternoon, he said.

Nearby residents were contacted about the fire, but no-one needed to be evacuated.

The fire had burned through a five-year-old pine plantation, along with gorse, broom and flood protection willows near the riverbank.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing, Teeling said.

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