3 Jan 2018

Wanaka blaze spreads over hillside

6:50 pm on 3 January 2018

Firefighters have largely contained a blaze on a hill overlooking Wanaka, after a local campground was evacuated.

The fire on Mt Roy near Wanaka.

The fire on Mt Roy near Wanaka. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

Fire crews spent the afternoon dealing with a fire at the base of Mount Roy near the Wanaka township in central Otago.

The fire could be clearly seen from the centre of town.

Witnesses said the blaze was being fanned by strong winds and was moving at pace at its height.

Fire Service spokesperson John Ditmer said crews were called to Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road just before 3pm.

He said the blaze was covering 5-10 acres of hill and was moving up the mountain.

Eleven emergency vehicles and three helicopters are at the scene.

The fire at the base of Mt Roy.

The fire at the base of Mt Roy. Photo: Supplied / Susie Studholme

Department of Conservation community senior ranger Annette Grieve said the fire was away from the public and housing.

"There's heavy smoke, the fire itself hasn't entered the public conservation land, it's behind a campground closer to town, it's certainly away from the public walking track," she said.

She said it had been dry and hot in the lead up to the blaze.

Meanwhile, a nearby campground was evacuated as a precaution.

The fire on Mt Roy near Wanaka can be clearly seen from town.

The fire on Mt Roy near Wanaka can be clearly seen from town. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

Lauren Young from the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park said their site backed onto Mount Roy and she could see the flames.

"It's going quite rapidly up the hillside behind us. We're fully booked at the moment, we've got about 16 rooms and about 45, 50 sites that we're evacuating," she said.

She said she understood the fire may have been started by someone burning rubbish.

"My husband went for a drive and spoke to a gentleman who said that there was someone burning off a small amount of rubbish and it's just gone out of control."

Ms Young said the wind was blowing the fire up Mount Roy, not down towards the Wanaka township.

Bus blaze

In nearby Cromwell, a tour bus caught fire at the Mrs Jones fruit stall on the outskirts of the town today.

No passengers were on board when the fire started, but their luggage was incinerated by the flames.

The bus that caught fire at the Mrs Jones fruit stall on the edge of Cromwell.

The bus that caught fire at the Mrs Jones fruit stall on the edge of Cromwell. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

Train blamed for Rolleston fire

Meanwhile, a train is being blamed as the cause of a shrub fire in Canterbury this afternoon.

Emergency services were called to a lifestyle block on Tresillian Drive, near Rolleston, about 1pm, where a fire had blazed through shrub down the side of the main train line heading west.

The scene of the scrub fire near Rolleston.

The scene of the scrub fire near Rolleston. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

The fire occurred on a 32-acre lifestyle block owned by Christchurch builder, John Stewart, who bought the property just eight weeks ago.

The blaze tore through 1000m2 of shrub and fencing, before nine fire appliances and a helicopter got it under control.

Mr Stewart said he believed it was caused by a passing train.

"What set it off was the train going by and the back brakes dragging. It was just sparking and [the grass caught] fire right on the railway line," he said. "There's quite few a fence posts down."

This was the latest of several fires the region has seen this summer already, with the most recent being a grass fire near Hororata on Christmas Day.

Canterbury had not seen heavy rain all summer.

Mr Stewart said today's fire could have been much worse, given the dry conditions.

"Not a very good way to start the new year, but it is what it is," he said.

Fire station officer Phil Glen said it was too early to say what caused the fire, and could not confirm if a train was responsible.

"It is a possibility," he said.

"However, we have had a helicopter following the train right up the track to Arthur's Pass and there is no other fires up there."

Mr Glen said the fire was now under control, and crews would remain into the evening to dampen down hot spots.

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