Christchurch blaze: 20 homes evacuated, crews battling two fires

Twenty homes have been evacuated as firefighters continue to battle a major fire near Cass Bay in Christchurch.

Three helicopters and four fire crews are at the scene after being called at about 1.30pm this afternoon.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said while 20 properties had been evacuated along the Corsair Bay flank of the fire, no structures are under threat.

Lyttelton-Governors Bay Rd (Park Terrace), from Corsair through to Rapaki is closed and is expected to re-open at about 5.30pm.

The road closure is to enable aerial firefighting operations, Fenz says.

“The fire has been surrounded and firefighters are currently working to put containment lines around it,” Fenz said.

Emergency services are urging people to stay away from the area and to keep their doors and windows shut, especially those particularly vulnerable to the effects of smoke.

Metservice has issued a strong wind warning for the Canterbury High Country, with northwest gales set to rip down the centre of the South Island but strong gusts are howling through the city.

A Fire Emergency New Zealand spokesman said crews are attending a large fire at Cass Bay.

Four ground crews and three helicopters are at the scene, and the fire has so far burnt through about 15ha.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area.

Firefighters are also battling a fire in Lowburn which broke out at about 1.30pm today.

The spokesman could not provide further details such as location or how large it is.

Metservice forecaster Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said howling winds of 80km/h have been recorded at Christchurch Airport in the last hour.

More exposed areas near Banks Peninsula saw gusts reaching 93km/h this morning, she said.

1400 Cantabrians were without power today due to the high winds.

An Orion spokeswoman said they have managed to restore power to most of the homes and just 160 are still without power.

Principal Rural Fire Officer Bruce Janes said: “Since the gusts got up earlier today, crews across the region have been chasing fires and attended multiple callouts right across the region.”

Canterbury is currently in a restricted fire season, where any open-air fire needs a permit.

However, with the strong winds expected to last for another 12 to 18 hours, Fire and Emergency asks anyone with a fire permit to hold off burning until conditions ease.

Janes said anyone who has had a recent fire to check that it is completely out.

“With winds as strong as what we are experiencing, hot ashes can easily get picked up, potentially starting a new fire. We want to reduce the risks as much as possible, that’s why it is very important to check previous burns.

“Overhaul the area of the burn, pour water over it and check with the back of your hand that there is no heat.”

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