Bush fire on Wither Hills near Blenheim

Firefighters have managed to contain a bush fire on the Wither Hills, near Blenheim.

The scene of the fire - around the region's lower foothills - is the same area a blaze broke out on Boxing Day 2000 and raged for three days.

Seven crews and four helicopters were deployed to combat today's fire, which has not threatened any of the area's world-famous vineyards.

The fire started in a gully close to a public walkway on the lower foothills, inside the Wither Hills Forest Farm Park.

About 5ha of scrub and bush has been destroyed but the fire is being held on the ridge line.

Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal fire officer Richard McNamara said the fire had now been contained.

"We've been lucky," Mr McNamara said. "If the response hadn't been as fast as it was, the outcome could have been very different. It had the potential to run right to the top of the hill very quickly - and we all knew what would happen if it had run away on us."

Conditions are warm and breezy and the fire had previously spread quickly.

The team battling the blaze had been aided by 16 fire fighters who were taking part in a rural fire training exercise at the nearby Woodbourne RNZAF base.

"That gave us a lot of hitting power early on and it has made the difference," Mr McNamara said.

An investigation into the cause is underway with the blaze appearing to have begun very close to a walkway.

Public walkways in the area are now closed and people have been told to stay away. Access to roads in the area has also been restricted to emergency services and residents.

- NZ Herald

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