Woodend residents relieved to return home following bush fire evacuations

7:05 pm on 3 November 2022
Canterbury fire crews have been battling a large scrub fire at Woodend beach. Helicopters and Planes got brought in to help fight the fire. 03 November 2022 New Zealand Herald Photograph by George Heard

The fire at Pegasus Bay has burned 160 hectares. Photo: NZME / George Heard

Residents are preparing to return home after a fire work sparked a major blaze in North Canterbury.

Police have spoken to two rangatahi, with one referred to Youth Aid.

The blaze has burned through 160 hectares of pine forest and scrub along a five kilometre stretch of coastline from Pegasus to Woodend so far.

The fire caused 130 people to be evacuated from Woodend Beach Holiday Park just after 10pm last night.

It was a sleepless one for Jane Healy, as the flames roared just over a kilometre away from the house she was looking after in Pegasus.

"Having seen it, I semi-panicked because I'm house sitting and rang [the owners] and asked what they wanted me to grab," she said.

"I grabbed all the documents, chucked them in the car and then ran down the road to see exactly where it was. Then I went 'Ok, it's on the other side of the pines' and then I just kept an eye on it all night."

Healy could not believe her eyes when she saw the blaze.

"[The fire] was like something from a movie. It was very unreal. You could see trees were going up [in flames], big massive pine trees...It was just surreal really."

A Canterbury scrub fire seen from Pegasus.

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

Annette was evacuated from her caravan home in Woodend Beach Holiday Park last night.

It took her a moment to realise what she was looking at.

"I was sitting out waiting for the night to come in because I like to sleep outside a bit...And I thought now I've got cloud. What's that cloud? Oh! That's smoke from the forest fire," Annette laughed.

Fire and emergency confirmed the fire came as close as 100 metres away from the camp.

Today, a fireman escorted Annette home to briefly pick up medication forgotten in the evacuation panic.

"It seemed quite good, but I'm not a fire person. No, I would've absconded if I hadn't had to come back. I thought 'oh I'll stay here now' but you know that's really rebellious for old ladies."

Luckily for Annette, she wouldn ot have to sneak back.

Fire and Emergency allowed residents to begin to return from 5pm this evening.

But Incident Controller Dave Berry said the fight was far from over.

"During the night, we'll be monitoring the fire with three appliances. We'll also be doing extra monitoring around the area of the motorcamp. At the moment, we've still got our four helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft and our crews on the ground."

Residents needed to be prepared in case another evacuation was required, Berry urged.

He told Checkpoint the cause of the fire was disappointing.

"Yeah, a bit gutted and I mean it's a lot of time for people who are volunteers and everything that have come out to fight the fire today and also their employers that are giving up their time so we're grateful for those people of course," Berry said.

Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon (L) and FENZ fire incident controller Dave Berry.

Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon and FENZ fire incident controller Dave Berry. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon said the community was greatly appreciative of all the hard work being done by Fire and Emergency and volunteers.

Their stellar efforts have brought people peace of mind, he said.

"There's a lot of relief for people, knowing they're able to return to their homes but there are warnings in place and they're things that we really need people to abide by so they're kept safe and secure," Gordon urged.

"At the moment, it's looking really good. I know that [those evacuated] will be relieved to go back home."

For now, evacuated locals were looking forward to sleeping in their own beds and were hoping tonight would not bring another late night wake up call.

Fire and Emergency is expected to stay at the scene for several more days, but is confident the fire is being brought under control.

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