Strong winds in the South Island blow over power lines, starting multiple fires

fire engine
Strong winds felled power lines. Photo credit: Getty Images

It has been a calamitous night in the lower South Island as wild winds fuelled several fires.

It kicked off about 10pm with a forestry fire to Dunedin's east at Three Mile Hill, and another to the west at Cape Saunders.

Shortly after, a hay shed and a plantation went up in flames in Albury, south Canterbury. Crews worked until 2:30am to put it out. 

Other fires burned near Lake Opuha, Temuka and Waimate. The latter saw blazes in vegetation on Cardiff St and Paddys Lane. Access was hampered by fallen trees. Fire and Emergency (FENZ) said protecting motorists was a priority. 

FENZ says many of the fires were started by fallen power lines and worsened by winds. Rain in Dunedin helped quell some of them. 

Ten wildfires were still blazing as of 8am from South Canterbury to Hurunu, said FENZ spokesperson Kevin Barbara, mostly in rural areas. The biggest was in the Glentui area of the Waimakariri District.

The wind is starting to die down, assisting efforts to put them out. 

Flooding in Bluff has also seen many callouts.

Crews are returning Friday morning to some of the Otago fires to check they are fully out.

Further north, more than 2000 properties were left without power in the lower North Island.

PowerCo's site shows multiple outages in Wellington and the Manawatu-Whanganui region.

Almost 1200 are in the dark in Featherston.