Major New Zealand wildfire expected to burn for weeks

Sergio Conner
February 13, 2019

Twenty-three helicopters and two planes have reportedly been deployed to combat the blaze in the nation's largest aerial firefight on record, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Fires started on Monday and Tuesday and quickly spread.

As of Monday, the blaze was still scorching the island's arid countryside, but as firefighting conditions improved, around 3,000 evacuated residents were allowed to return home.

A massive bushfire has churned through more than 5,600 acres on New Zealand's South Island in what is believed to be the country's worst forest fire since 1955, BBC reports.

Strong winds were expected, and officials warned that Sunday could be a "critical danger point" for the fire.

Fire chief John Sutton said that although conditions had eased, the blaze remained unpredictable and it was too early to say it was under control.

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"I'm anxious about tomorrow, to be honest", Sutton said.

"The government appreciates the impact of the Nelson/Tasman fires on the region's farmers, businesses and other employers and we're committed to providing support".

"Returning residents need to understand and accept that they need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions change", he said.

"When you have to leave your home and in some cases your livestock and animals and you don't know what's become of them, and you're staying with friends and family, then it's an uncertain situation for everybody", she said. Some livestock has also been moved to safety.

"There's a high risk that what we end up with is a more flammable landscape that is more vulnerable to fire", George Perry, professor of environmental science at the University of Auckland, told the Guardian.

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