Firefighters spend christmas on the fireground

Firefighters will be spending their Christmas on the fireground keeping the lid on a blaze that has already destroyed almost 60 hectares of trees and pasture in North Canterbury.

Crews have had little respite since the fire in the Ashworth Beach Forest, near Leithfield broke out on Wednesday afternoon and spread quickly into a neighbouring pine plantation fanned by strong nor west winds.

Darren Mann from the Ashley Rural Fire District says while they now have about eighty percent containment they can’t afford to let up on the operation while there is still a chance of winds whipping the fire back into life.

The south-west change predicted for this morning didn’t eventuate, but he says, the high humidity level is a godsend.

“It’s been about 50% during the day and is expected to rise to 60 – 70% overnight and that amount of moisture in the air certainly helps.”

What would be even more beneficial he says is a decent cloudburst.

“We would dearly love some rain. The forecast had indicated some today, and while it was only a few millimetres and not enough for what we need, some is better than none, but we haven’t seen any yet.”

The operation is being scaled down from nine crews to four crews for Christmas Day with firefighters from Nelson/Marlborough, Northland and Rotorua continuing to work allowing the local crews time out to spend with their families.

“We know they would also like to be tucking into a turkey at home and we certainly appreciate that they are continuing to work through allowing our guys time with their families.

“They’ve been working tirelessly with us since Thursday. This kind of out of region assistance is greatly appreciated.”

Firefighters from outside of the region will continue working through until December 27th.

Close on sixty hectares of trees and pasture have been burnt in the fire which also destroyed a local timber plant.

The fire has taxed local resources and Darren Mann is urging travellers and holidaymakers to obey the rules and take particular care in the tinder dry conditions not to do anything that might result in another callout anytime soon.

“The last thing we need now is another fire somewhere else”.

Fire restrictions are in force across North Canterbury which means open fires cannot be lit without a permit.

The “Take a Break Café”, which has had to close for business to the general public because of the fire, has been feeding the crews since Wednesday – sending out around 500 meals.


For further information contact:

Lauren McKenzie

Communications Advisor

Hurunui District Council

P: 03 314 0024