22 Sep 2023

Pukaki Downs fire: 'Huge relief' as rain falls and wind dies down

12:47 pm on 22 September 2023
Aftermath of Pukaki Downs scrub fire in Twizel. State Highway 80 in Canterbury has now reopened.

Aftermath of the the Pukaki Downs fire. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

Two fires in the Mackenzie district are now well contained as rain and snow lash the area.

On Thursday night a convoy of about 50 vehicles - containing mostly tourists - left the Aoraki Mt Cook area, with nobody endangered by the large fire which began on Wednesday night at Pukaki Downs.

Fire and Emergency incident controller Stephen Butler told Morning Report that about 10.4 millimetres of rain had fallen at Pukaki and the winds had died down.

Butler said 42mm of rain had fallen at Glentanner.

Mid-South Canterbury Fire and Emergency assistant commander Stephen Butler speaks to reporters as heavy rain causes flooding in the South Island on 21 September, 2023.

Fire and Emergency incident controller Stephen Butler. Photo: RNZ / Nathan Mckinnon

"That's huge relief for us. The best thing about that for us is that the cloud's actually quite high so we have got a chopper in the air this morning with our operations manager doing a fly over so that we can get situation awareness of what's actually happening before we have our briefing at 7.30[am].

"The fire is looking a lot better than what it was yesterday."

The conditions would be assessed for safety before ground crews were sent in, he said.

Heavy machinery would be working on stop points throughout the fire to protect homes.

The Pukaki Downs blaze.

The Pukaki Downs blaze on Thursday. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

Helicopters would operate weather permitting.

Butler said about 180 hectares have been burnt so far, but no homes have been damaged.

"The locals have done a fantastic job of giving themselves some defendable area around their homes as a result of the fires three years ago so we've learnt from that and they've now got nice manicured lawns in front of their homes and we've cut down trees that were too close to their houses."

Six homes were evacuated as the fire raged on Wednesday night, but residents are expected to be allowed home today.

State Highway 80 from Pukaki to Mount Cook reopened Friday morning through Butler said people need to be cautious and maintain situational awareness when travelling.

Aftermath of Pukaki Downs scrub fire in Twizel. State Highway 80 in Canterbury has now reopened.

State Highway 80 has reopened. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

Another large fire was reported at Mount Gerald Station at nearby Lake Takapō on Thursday.

This fire had a flare up about 1am Friday but was contained.

The Pukaki Downs blaze.

Fire crews in the Mackenzie District on Thursday. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

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