A major scrub fire near Wānaka tonight is growing in size and firefighters say a wind shift could see the blaze threaten homes, with evacuations possible.
Ground crews supported by 10 fire appliances and eight helicopters are battling the fire which is now burning an estimated 180 to 200ha in an area of regenerating bush at Emerald Bay.
Fire and Emergency incident controller Jason Sarich said as well as the helicopters, another aircraft was co-ordinating the air attack.
The aircraft will stand down from about 9.30pm but some of the ground crews will stay on scene tonight to monitor the fire.
"A wind shift is forecast tonight which could move the fire closer to a small number of properties at Emerald Bluffs.
"Fire personnel have been in touch with those residents to alert them to the situation. Fire and Emergency is also liaising with Police and Emergency Management Otago in case precautionary evacuations are required."
A fire investigator will be on scene tomorrow.
People are being urged to stay away from the area, between Glendhu Bay and the access road to Treble Cone, as firefighters battle the blaze in windy conditions.
A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokeswoman said at 2pm that the fire was estimated to be 1km long and 100m wide. By 3.15pm, the fire had grown and it has now spread across an area spanning 2km by 800m.
"We were first called to the fire just off Wānaka Mt Aspiring Rd between the Treble Cone Skifield Rd at about 1.30pm this afternoon," a statement from Fire and Emergency said.
In an update just before 5.30pm, Fire and Emergency said while the fire had jumped the road, it was also spreading up the hillside.
Wānaka Mt Aspiring Rd at Glendhu Bay had now reopened following hours of being closed.
The road was closed off to traffic in the early afternoon, leaving around 30 vehicles stuck in the area.
Janine Weatherly was just one motorist stuck, she and her family were coming back from a day trip to a nearby swimming hole.
In her videos, Weatherly shows the blaze moving rapidly across the hills.
"Unbelievable," she can be heard saying in the footage. "You can't even see where we were, up over that ridge."
Weatherly's sister-in-law Sarah Pont was in Wānaka earlier, nervously awaiting the return of her family from what was meant to be a fun, but much less eventful, day out.
"My 9-year-old son Max is with them. Their trip to the Chasm for a swim has not ended well. I'm very nervous and hope the fire crew are giving them good directions," she told the Herald.
Power lines are reportedly on fire as the flames continue to spread.
MetService meteorologist Alwyn Bakker said clear skies and hot weather often means fires spark up across the country.
Bakker said the region is currently experiencing "mostly fine" weather with winds of up to 30km/h. With rain in the Fiordland, Wanaka may have some rain but Bakker said the likelihood of rain is small.
Crews from Wānaka, Arrowtown, Luggate and Dunstan are responding to the fire and being supported by seven helicopters.
Local Jessica Schmelz was at Glendhu Bay Campground when she spotted the flames.
"Apparently it started on the lake side of the road, but has jumped the road and is well involved now," she told the Herald.
People are being asked to avoid the area, and not to fly drones in the area because of the presence of helicopters.
"There have been reports of drones operating near the fire. This is exceptionally dangerous with helicopters in the air and they need to be grounded immediately," Fire and Emergency said.
A drone that was around the fire has since been grounded
Moving into Monday, Bakker said fine weather is still on the cards for the region.
- with ODT