Fires are continuing to burn in Central Otago, with three homes in Maniototo now evacuated, police confirmed this morning.

Fire and Emergency has 12 vehicle crews fighting two fires near Waipiata, believed to have been caused by lightning strikes yesterday in tinder-dry conditions.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson for the Southern centre said there were at least two fires: a major one covering about 50ha near Waipiata-Kokonga Rd, which started about 6pm yesterday, and a smaller one on Four Mile Rd near Hyde.

He said the bigger one was still out of control, but firefighters had the smaller one contained.


Officers from throughout Otago have been sent to Ranfurly to bolster local police.

A police spokeswoman said shortly after 8am today three homes have been evacuated and police were ready to evacuate more if needed.

"It all depends on the weather conditions.''

Units from Dunedin and Palmerston had been sent to the area to assist, she said.

The evacuated occupants stayed in the Kokonga Lodge on the Waipiata-Konga Rd last night.

Helicopters were stood down when it got dark. A Fire and Emergency spokesman said this morning one was used at first light to survey the scene and give them an idea of the main fire's progress.

Eleven ground crews monitored the situation overnight, while one crew kept an eye on the smaller, contained fire at Four Mile Rd at Hyde.

Central Otago police are asking motorists to be aware of road closures near Ranfurly, as emergency services respond to the fires.


State Highway 87 was closed between the intersection with SH85 and Waipiata-Kokonga Rd, which was also closed just before 9pm yesterday.

MetService forecaster Sarah Hadden said forecast in the area for the next 12 hours was for fine conditions, but with a strong northeasterly building overnight before a southerly brought rain tomorrow afternoon.

Up to 30 lightning strikes were recorded in the area between 5.30pm and 6.30pm yesterday.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokeswoman Jill Higginson earlier said firefighters were called to a scrub fire on Waipiata-Kokonga Rd just after 6pm. It was thought a passing lightning storm sparked the fire, she said.

Crews from the Ranfurly and Naseby Volunteer Fire Brigades were involved, with tankers from Palmerston, Middlemarch and Wakari.

Waipiata Country Hotel owner Mark Button said smoke could be seen from the Waipiata township but it was on the Kokonga side of the Taieri River.

A thunderstorm passed through the area about 6pm and Mr Button thought it had sparked the two separate fires.