- Publish Date
- Tuesday, 8 March 2016, 8:14AM
A massive bushfire has cut off the South Island town of Hanmer Springs today.
Thirty residents have been evacuated to the town's sports pavillion.
Canterbury Police District Command Centre spokesperson Kath Pomfrett said all roads in and out of the southern town were closed due to the fire which broke out at 1.20am.
"You can't go in and out of the town," she said.
The town's power supply had also been cut, however at this stage, residents of the township were not in danger.
The River Road to the north of the town and the 7A turn off to the south were both closed, isolating the town.
She said the fire started in the scrub along a nearby river.
Fire Service Canterbury District Commander Dave Berry said the fire now spanned 50 hectares of steep land and burning out of control.
"We're awaiting dawn to attack with helicopters and there are five helicopters that have been ordered," he said.
Both the terrain and windy, gusty conditions were making it difficult to fight the blaze.
A couple of homes were also under threat.
"It's quite steep terrain with wind gusts coming through and we've got a couple of houses we're protecting," he said.
There were 17 fire crews fighting the blaze including rural tankers and urban fires and a command unit from Christchurch.
He said the initial call came in at 11.40pm when the scrub was seen on fire along the nearby Waiau River.
The Hurunui District Council has posted on its Facebook page that civil defence has activated an emergency welfare centre at the Rugby Pavilion.
It said up to 20 houses had now been evacuated.
MainPower was not likely to restore power to the township until after midday.
A number of poles had been destroyed and a decision was made last night to turn power off to the area due to the fire.
The Council Facebook page described the difficulties facing firefighters this morning.
"We've got a large fire in steep terrain in the dark with winds of 60-70kph.
"We have a team defending the Ferry Bridge," read the post.
The district council said there were no reports of property loss at this stage.
Protecting life and property had been the priority overnight.
It said the fire service was concentrating its efforts defending the historic wooden Ferry Bridge, which spans the Waiau River.
Graeme Abbot - spokesman for the civil defence effort in Hanmer - told the Heraldthis morning that there are 70 firefighters, and 17 vehicles, currently fighting the 50ha blaze.
The alarm went off at 11.40pm last night, he said, and firefighters have been battling the fire since.
"They haven't been able to control it. What they have been able to do is to secure or make safe two houses that were in the immediate vicinity and also the Ferry Bridge - which is the connecting bridge from the main road into Hanmer Springs. Those are all safe."
Mr Abbot said four or five helicopters are about to take off to evaluate the situation.