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Christchurch Fire situation report -- noon, 9 Jan

This morning's drizzle and calm conditions have been helpful as Rural Fire Authority crews work to strengthen a ring around the fire which yesterday swept through about 40ha of pine forest in the north-east of Christchurch.

Principal Rural Fire Officer Keith Marshall says the light drizzle helps make light material like pine needles and scrub harder to set alight but does not make any difference to what he calls "heavy fuel" -- tree stumps, trunks and branches.

Today there are about 50 people working to extinguish any hot spots and deal with flare-ups in a 20m-30m ring around the fire. The aim today is to contain the fire and ensure it cannot spread to surrounding forest areas. At present no helicopters are being used.

A large bulldozer and digger have been being used since late yesterday afternoon to expand fire breaks. A second bulldozer is being brought in this afternoon.

The Fire Service has installed a pump on the Stxy River and run a hose line east across Lower Stxy Road into the forest to provide water for crews working on the west flank of the fire.

Fire Service investigators are working with the Police to determine what might have caused the fire. They ask that anyone who was in the area south of Spencer Park and the surf club at around 4pm yesterday to please contact the New Brighton Police.

Christchurch City Council parks staff say the northern half of the Bottle Lake Forest Park, from about 15th Avenue north, is now effectively closed to the public. Signs have been posted in the forest and people are being asked to only use the southern half of the park.

Mr Marshall says the area of the fire is extremely dangerous. "We've got 30m trees in there with fire burning in their root systems and any of them could topple at any time. There's water tankers moving about servicing the crews and heavy earthmoving equipment. We're telling our own crews they have to be very watchful and we'd really appreciate it if people did not try to come into the area," he says.

It is thought Rural Fire crews will need to be working on the Spencer Park fire for most of this week.

Another fire to the west, in paddocks between Main North Road and the railway line, is now contained. A fire applicance, tanker and several firefighters are working at that site.

Background: The Spencer Park fire began at about 4.30pm on Sunday a pine plantation just south of the Spencer Park picnic area in Christchurch.


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