Introduction

Update: Favourable weather conditions aided fire crews to halt the spread of the large wild fire today at Flock Hill near Craigieburn Forest Park in Canterbury.

Update: Wednesday 28 January 2015

The fire is largely under control. Favourable weather conditions aided fire crews to halt the spread of the large wild fire today at Flock Hill near Craigieburn Forest Park in Canterbury.

The fire, which was first reported yesterday afternoon, spread over 330 hectares of scrub, wilding pines and grassland on Flock Hill Station.

DOC fire officer and Incident Controller Bruce Janes said that favourable conditions today had helped efforts to contain the blaze, which is expected to be brought under control later this evening.

“The light winds and more humid conditions really helped fire-fighting efforts today and the fire is now about 90 percent controlled.”

“It’s been a huge multi-agency effort and our strategy of hitting the fire hard has paid off.”

“The threat to native species and facilities in Craigieburn Forest Park and Castle Hill Village has been significantly reduced,” said Janes.

Six helicopters with monsoon buckets and three ‘water bomber’ planes today worked to douse the perimeter of the fire where there was greatest risk of it spreading on steep terrain, as well as flare ups within the area.

More than 50 people from four rural fire-fighting crews from DOC, Selwyn and Waimakariri district councils and Christchurch City Council supported the aerial attack as conditions were too dangerous for crews to fight the fire on the ground for most of the day.

Janes said forecast conditions for tomorrow were also favourable which would aid a continued helicopter and ground-based assault.

“Tomorrow will be a long, hard, hot day as ground-based fire crews work to tackle hot spots around the 8-kilometre perimeter of the fire.”

The National Rural Fire Authority has organised a team of 30 fire-fighters from as far afield as Whangarei to bolster ground crews tomorrow.

A fire crew will remain on watch tonight for flare-ups.


Tuesday 27 January 2015

Overnight the fire on the Flock Hill side of SH73 opposite Craigieburn Forest Park increased from around 100 ha at 9.30 pm to well over 300 ha this morning and is still not under control.  

However DOC Fire Technical Support Officer Craig Alexander says that it is very fortunate that the fire has not crossed the road into Craigieburn Forest Park where there are heavier and more flammable fuels. 

“If the fire becomes established on the other side of the road, it would pose a major threat to native species as well as a range of recreational and educational facilities in Craigieburn Forest Park, including skifields and lodges.” 

The incident management team are cautiously optimistic that the weather and conditions will be better today to contain the fire. 

“Yesterday it was like trying to contain a raging bull with baling twine with the variable winds and other conditions causing the fire to be very unpredictable and explosive at times. 

“Today the winds are light and temperatures are predicted to be in the mid 20s, compared to getting up to 30 degrees around 4 pm yesterday so we hope this will be in our favour.” 

As a precaution the Selwyn District Council’s civil defence emergency plans are in place with local residents having been notified of the need to evacuate should the fire extend south to Parapet Rock (a known landmark on the Great Alpine Highway), approximately 4 km directly north of the Castle Hill village. 

The fire and terrain are still too hazardous for crew to fight the fire on the ground and four new crews this morning are continuing to assist with aerial operations. The use of an aerial applied fire retardant is being considered in order to establish a fire break. 

A further update will be provided once the fire incident controller on site has completed an aerial assessment of the fire.

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