Tourists are advised to stay away from large tracts of Marlborough forest as huge forest wildfire rages out of control.
Update 29 Nov 2015: After 5 days the 450 hectare forest fire is still blazing and has yet to be brought under control. Fire crews are exhausted and the blaze has taken up over 500 person hours. A total fire ban has been imposed over Marlborough which is tinder box dry. Conditions are set to become more arid over the summer with the approaching extreme El Nino event.However, talk of drought is being played-down so as not to affect the tourist trade or alarm residents.
Drought is the most persistent natural hazard to affect Marlborough. in February this year a major fire tore through Onamalutu Forest (picture below) causing several homes to be evacuated.
In 2000 Marlborough recorded the highest ever national fire index level. The extreme drought conditions at the time culminated in the Boxing Day fires near Ward and on the Wither Hills near Blenheim. Some 600 hectares of farmland were burnt in the Ward fire. The Wither Hills fire was much more extensive, burning some 6100 hectares and, at the time, was the largest grass fire recorded in New Zealand for the preceding 17 years. source
In the last few minutes up to 10 fire fighting helicopters have been grounded by high winds, which are also fanning the flames.
Much of Marlborough is tinder-box dry at the moment and there are concerns there are no sufficient resources to deal with the fire. Yesterday Renwick residents were asked to reduce their water use immediately
The fire is currently burning through hundreds of hectares of the Waikakaho Valley where a forestry plantation has been destroyed. Residents in the area have been urged to evacuate their homes.
Air Space “Maxed Out” Yesterday
Fire crews contained the fire to about 400 hectares overnight, while yesterday it was feared the fire could spread to 600ha.
More than 100 firefighters and helicopter crew were involved in a “holding operation” to contain the fire in the Waikakaho Valley on Thursday.
Nine helicopters, with monsoon buckets, were fighting the fire – the maximum number that is safe for the airspace they were working in, Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal fire officer Richard McNamara said on Thursday. source