Homes evacuated as fire burns in Canterbury overnight

Dozens of firefighters are continuing to battle a large vegetation fire that sparked in Canterbury.

Fire and Emergency (FENZ) crews were called at 8pm Sunday to a vegetation fire in Waikari Valley, prompting nearby homes to be evacuated. 

Crews worked through the night to tackle the blaze which was burning on difficult terrain. 

On Sunday night, three appliances were working to provide structure protection to impacted houses, while 15 crews and one bulldozer worked to bring the fire under control.

The number of crews battling the blaze increased on Monday morning with roughly 50 firefighters and 18 appliances on the ground, while five helicopters assessed the fire from the sky.

"This morning ground crews are strengthening the containment line while the helicopters work from the air," FENZ said.

"The fire is currently uncontrolled and has largely burned out, but remains a risk due to high winds."

Residents on Shell Rock Road and Glenmark Drive were evacuated on Sunday as a precaution and an evacuation centre has been set up at the Waipara Community Hall. FENZ told AM 37 residents were at the centre last night, 13 of whom stayed overnight.

There have been no reported livestock losses, or any structures lost or damaged.

FENZ said it is working with displaced residents and farmers, and hopes to return them to their homes as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, firefighting efforts on the Port Hills fire in Christchurch are continuing, with the focus on eliminating hotspots and strengthening the containment lines.

A FENZ specialist drone team carried out a second night of thermal imaging and identified a further 30 hotspots that crews are targeting on Monday.

Incident Controller Steve Kennedy said the intention is to strengthen any vulnerable points around the perimeter and continue extinguishing deep-seated fires in several old forestry skid sites before the wind strengthens on Monday afternoon.

Monday has been flagged as a high fire danger day across Canterbury because of the windy and hot conditions. Kennedy said that means any new fires will move very quickly and be hard to bring under control.

"We have the resources to respond to multiple incidents, but we’re asking everyone to do their part to prevent any more fires starting," Kennedy said.

Residents are asked to avoid high-risk activities that generate sparks or to wait until the coolest part of the day. This includes using equipment that generates sparks, or where blades can strike a stone and cause a spark such as chainsaws and parking vehicles in long grass as hot exhausts can start a fire.