Race to put out Hanmer Springs blaze before wind hits

Fire crews are under pressure to contain a large scrub fire in north Canterbury before the wind aggravates the situation.

Incident controller Allan Grigg says today is crucial for controlling the last 20 percent of the fire.

"Today is really our chance to knock this on the head; we've got it about 80 percent controlled," he says.

"We are very aware that there are norwest winds coming tomorrow so we need to make sure this fire is controlled to the point where those winds won't blow embers over our fire control lines.

"Once those winds get up, we can't fly choppers either so we need to make sure we get it today."

(Annabelle Tukia/Newshub)
(Annabelle Tukia/Newshub)

Dozens of firefighters have relieved crews who spent the night battling the fire near Hanmer Springs.

At least six crews are at the scene controlling more than 173 hectares of fire ground. Helicopters are on standby.

Machinery is also digging fire breaks to stop any potential flare-ups.

About 14 trucks, seven helicopters and three bulldozers were used to battle the blaze after it started about noon on Wednesday.

(Annabelle Tukia/Newshub)
(Annabelle Tukia/Newshub)

Mr Grigg says despite the tough terrain they were fortunate to be able to contain the fires so quickly due to having firefighters and aircraft available at short notice.

"[More daylight] gave a chance to really tackle this fire hard and knock it back before darkness fell," he says.

"If it had have gotten into the hills it would have been a campaign fire, weeks of work just like the Port Hills fire."

Some residents chose to leave but a fire service spokesman said there was no danger to property.

At the height of the fire they were fighting fast-moving flames as high as 40m and evacuated some residents for safety reasons.

State Highway 7 was closed between Culverden and Springs Junction for nearly eight hours but has reopened on Thursday morning with a speed limit of 30km/h. Motorists are urged to allow extra travel time.