Hanmer wildfires contained, crews to return at first light

Fires burn across the tinder-dry north Canterbury scrub beside SH7.  Photo / Facebook
Fires burn across the tinder-dry north Canterbury scrub beside SH7. Photo / Facebook

Helicopters will be flying over fire-ravaged parts of north Canterbury at first light to assess damage and forge today's plan.

Eight scrub fires have torn through more than 60ha near the Lewis Pass Highway north of Hanmer Springs.

Traffic on the busy alpine route was brought to a standstill and electricity cut after the blazes broke out 10km north of the township yesterday afternoon.

The region's mayor is praising firefighting efforts saying a potential catastrophe has been avoided.

Last night Hurunui District Council said the fires are still burning but have been contained.

Firefighters continued to attack the blaze overnight and protect the highway.

Fire service shift manager Riwai Grace said they would decide on today's plan at sunrise.

Helicopters were due to take to the skies in coming hours to give a best view of the damage and how to best tackle the wildfire.

The Culverden Hotel's beds were full overnight after hundreds of cars became stuck at each side of the State Highway 7 fire cordons.

The highway reopened about 8pm but by then most travellers had called it a day.

Culverden Hotel manager Alan Lattimore said it was one of their busiest nights since the Kaikoura quake when drivers were caught out by road closures.

Last night 12 helicopters, 14 ground crews, two bulldozers and a digger were battling the eight fires.

There was no immediate threat to life and the priorities were fire control and protection of State Highway 7.

Power remained out overnight to 50 customers after a pole on Lewis Pass Rd was destroyed by fire. Electricity crews were waiting until it was safe to enter the area before repairing it.

Hurunui District Council Mayor Winton Dalley said all available resources had been thrown at the fires.

Dalley said he was grateful to all of the crews and individuals that had been involved in the response to date.

"We know we are not out of the woods yet, but with all of the hard work that has gone in I am confident that we are through the worst of it and have avoided a potentially catastrophic event," he said.

- NZ Herald

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