130 people evacuated as crews battle Canterbury scrub fire

11:10 am on 3 November 2022
A Canterbury scrub fire seen from Pegasus.

The scrub fire as seen from Pegasus. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittlock

A wildfire forced the evacuation of 130 people from a holiday park at Woodend Beach north of Christchurch.

The blaze broke out at Pegasus Beach around 8pm on Wednesday and about 50 firefighters battled the flames overnight.

The Woodend Beach Holiday Park, which was in the path of the fire, was evacuated as a precaution as the blaze was driven south by strong wind.

NZ Herald and Stuff reported police as saying early indications were that fireworks may have been the cause of the fire.

It spanned 5.5 kilometres of the coast north of the Waimakariri River.

Firefighters were making good progress in bringing the fire under control.

Four helicopters and two planes were dropping water on it, while ground crews tackled spot fires and hotspots, and firmed up containment lines.

Waimakiriri district mayor Dan Gordon said crews had done a good job protecting vital infrastructure.

On Thursday morning incident controller Colin Russell said it was still burning but the wind had dropped, and crews had worked hard on the western flank of the fire to contain it overnight.

Heavy machinery was used to create a firebreak just north of Pines Beach which would provide a good base to protect the settlement, he told Morning Report.

The Pegasus Beach fire seen from the air.

Smoke drifts along the coast north of Christchurch from the Pegasus Beach fire. Photo: Supplied / Keagan Gaarkeuken

None of the buildings inside the holiday park had been burned, and there were no other major concerns for homes in the path of the fire.

They were still gauging the full extent of the fire and helicopters will be flown over the area to get a better idea of what they were dealing with, he said.

"It's going to take a fair bit of work again today to get on top of this fire."

Fire and Emergency (FENZ) and police were looking into the cause of the fire, Russell said.

There were no compulsory evacuations of other households in the Woodend area but some people had chosen to leave for the night, or had moved livestock, Fire and Emergency said.

A second community meeting was being held for evacuees and residents at 10am in the Woodend Community Centre.

The fire burning in the forest off the coast of Pegasus just north of Christchurch.

The fire burning in the forest off the coast of Pegasus just north of Christchurch last night. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Waimakariri emergency management and civil defence officer Brennan Wiremu said about 50 people, mostly from the holiday park, had turned up at Woodend Community Centre which was set up as a welfare hub.

Wiremu said the coastal strip from Pegasus Beach to Kairaki and the Pines Beach community often had fires in areas of pine trees, dense vegetation and marram grass.