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Media briefing: Christchurch Rural Fire situation

The fire which began at about 4.30pm in a pine plantation just south of the Spencer Park picnic area in Christchurch's north-east is expected to take several days to completely put out.

Principal Rural Fire Officer Keith Marshall has been unable to respond to all the news media calls made to him and asks if you would please call me from the morning on. I'll try to provide regular updates and, where time allows, ensure the senior Rural Fire officer on the scene is available to speak to reporters.

Here's some information which may be of use:

1) Early today (Mon, 9 Jan), the fire control headquarters will move from Spencer Park to the main buildings at Bottle Lake Forest Park 2) Overnight a smaller number of fire crews will be working on the outside edge of the fire zone. The aim for overnight crews is to confine the fire to its existing area. From tomorrow morning, the effort to beat it back will be scaled up again and it is likely at least two helicopters with monsoon buckets will be working to assist this effort.

3) The fire is in a stand of old pine trees at the south-eastern corner of the Council's Spencer Park and in the scrub and dunes of the beach there. It is in an area of perhaps 35-40ha, with the burning area at least doubling in size from 5-9pm last night. The area borders Bottle Lake Forest and heavy machinery will be working overnight to widen fire breaks to the south, between the area of fire and Bottle Lake forestry, and on its northern flank.

4) Just to the west of Spencer Park's picnic area is the Spencer Beach Holiday Park. Last night there were about 660 people either living or holidaying there. As a precaution a small number of people in about a dozen tent and caravan sites were asked to move to sites further north in case the fire broke out overnight.

5) Mr Marshall says the fire area contains a large amount of dry fuel on the ground, mainly deep beds of pine needles and scrub, and it could take four or five days before the fire is beaten and all hot spots are dealt with.

6) Because tanker trucks and other heavy equipment will be using the area, only people who are staying in the holiday park will be allowed into the area. People will also be discouraged from using Bottle Lake Forest tracks which lead up into the north-eastern part of the forest.

The City Council would appreciate any assistance the news media can provide in telling people that they should not try to get into the area of the fire.

7) Rural Fire has also been dealing with a second fire in the area. This was a pasture/scrub fire on land between the old Main North Road and the main trunk railway line south of the Waimakariri River and, if it had jumped east across the railway would have threatened the Cheneys plantation, another forest owned by the Selwyn Plantation Board. Defence Force personnel have been assisting Rural Fire crews in controlling this fire.


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