11 Jan 2013

Close eye kept on Prebbleton after blaze

9:39 pm on 11 January 2013

Rural fire crews were on high alert on Friday as nor'westers threatened to reignite parts of a grass fire near the Canterbury town of Prebbleton.

While Thursday's fire has largely been extinguished, some parts are being left to burn themselves out.

The blaze is estimated to have consumed 150 hectares of land and took almost 200 firefighters and private contractors to bring under control.

The principal rural fire officer for the Selwyn District Council says Thursday's conditions were as difficult as they get. Wilson Brown says the fire was travelling very fast and a person would not have been able to out-run it.

Mr Brown says welfare agencies are working their way around the area visiting residents and offering support.

The fire destroyed a poultry farm and razed three homes. Incident controller Douglas Marshall says it began on private land near a shingle quarry, but it is too early to say whether there is any evidence of criminal negligence.

Couple left with nothing

An elderly couple were left homeless and uninsured after the Prebbleton fire engulfed their home of 38 years.

David and Deanna Hartley were taking in the scene at their fire ravaged property on Friday. They say they have been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs and have no money or insurance.

Their ruined home is surrounded by burnt paddocks and a pine tree hedge was smouldering a day later.

Selwyn District Mayor Kelvin Coe earlier told Radio New Zealand's Summer Report programme that it was one of the worst fires seen in the area.

Poultry farm destroyed, animals rescued

The owner of a poultry farm destroyed by the fire says it will take two years to rebuild his business. The laying shed at Marshall Eggs was gutted and 18,000 hens perished.

Alan Marshall was on holiday with his family when he got the news and says he is devastated by what has happened. He does not yet know how much the damage will cost.

Mr Marshall's nearby home was saved from the flames.

The SPCA says about 200 farm animals had to be evacuated from paddocks during the grass fire on Thursday.

Thirteen SPCA workers and several residents spent two hours relocating sheep, stock and horses to paddocks out of harm's way. Several cats and rabbits were also rescued from threatened homes and the SPCA is looking after some of them.

Canterbury SPCA animal welfare manager Geoff Sutton believes a dog died when a house burnt down, but is not aware of any other deaths or injuries.