22 Dec 2010

Frantic day for Canterbury firefighters

10:00 pm on 22 December 2010

Wednesday has been a frantic day for Canterbury firefighters, with fires big and small flaring throughout the region, sparked by fierce north-westerly winds.

Well into the evening, 80 firefighters were still battling a big fire in a forest near Leithfield Beach in North Canterbury; two homes had been evacuated as a precaution.

Eventually, efforts to put out the fire - which has burnt through an area two kilometres by one kilometre - were scaled back for the night.

Meanwhile seventy firefighters were at the scene of a fire near Waimate, which has burned through 200 hectares.

Another fire near Rolleston, south of Christchurch, was contained, but several smaller fires were burning across the province.

500 emergency calls in 24 hours

The Fire Service's area commander, Dan Coward, says the call on the service has been relentless, with 500 emergency calls logged in the past 24 hours.

Mr Coward says the wind is blowing branches onto powerlines, sparking fires that are then spread by the wind.

He urges people to call 111 if they spot any smoke, and to check what restrictions their local authority has in place before lighting any fires.