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Conservation Land Damaged In Canterbury Fire

Some conservation land was damaged in a scrub fire that ignited on Saturday, the area's fire chief says.

The fire, in Tekapō, burned through 150ha of vegetation and required aircraft, as well as multiple fire crews, to put it out.

It was extinguished on Saturday evening, and not believed to be suspicious.

The fire damaged some conservation land, which was "disappointing", Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) mid-south Canterbury district manager Rob Hands said.

Fire crews would revisit the site early on Sunday morning to help assess the damage.

The blaze was among more than a dozen that firefighters battled in the area on Saturday, fanned by strong winds.

Others took hold in Amberley, where two outhouses and a caravan were destroyed, and in Waipara and Broomfield.

"Because they get in underneath hedgerows, et cetera where it's dry because the moisture doesn't get through the hedge and then the fire burns down into the ground," he told RNZ, "so it takes a little longer to extinguish it and ensure that it is out."

A handful of houses had to be evacuated on Saturday, but everyone was allowed back into their homes that evening, Hands said.

Firefighters had remained at those three sites overnight and "we'll resource up again in the morning as required", Hands said.

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"It's just good to have eyes on the ground so that we're not going backwards."

Other vegetation fires were reported in areas like Ashburton and Rakaia, but they were "quite minor".

"Some are previously lit fires, some were fires lit [on Saturday] which was disappointing."

There were thought to be various causes, including powerlines and old fires reigniting. Hands said fire investigators would head to each site on Sunday to confirm what happened.

Strong wind watches had been in place for much of the lower South Island on Saturday. FENZ had urged locals not to burn any fires outdoors, and to thoroughly put out any fires already burning.

Hands said it was disappointing people chose to light fires anyway.

'Tinder-dry conditions'

Hurunui Mayor Marie Black said there remained a high fire risk in North Canterbury.

"We are experiencing tinder-dry conditions up there. We're in severe drought and it makes absolute sense to me that FENZ would have been on standby to monitor that situation throughout the night."

She said anyone who started a fire should be aware that it could get out of control very quickly.

"Because of the dryness, people do need to be incredibly aware of the potential for things to change quite rapidly."

She thanked volunteer firefighters for helping during Saturday's blazes.

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