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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Machinery and manpower were increased this week in a bid to reduce the chances of flare-ups from two large fires in the Ashley River.

Fire and Emergency incident controller Bruce Janes says it is hoped the fire-fighting efforts will be over by Saturday.

The fire west of the Cones Road Bridge, near Dunlops Road, which started on Sunday afternoon, is being treated as suspicious and wildfire investigator Grant Campbell is now working with the police on a “couple of leads”.

A smaller fire yesterday morning near the Rangiora Showgrounds is also being treated as suspicious.

The other large fire, east of the bridge, which began early on Monday morning, is suspected as starting from a burnt-out car. It burnt through about 12 hectares.

Hot, dry, windy conditions fanned the fires.

Five helicopters fought the fires from above, as ground crews worked in difficult terrain, high temperatures and strong winds to secure a perimeter around the fires and expand the fire breaks.

Mr Janes says the Dunlops Road scene will require 100 hectares be dug up and rotary-hoed, to make sure the fire is completely out.

He says it is deep-seated in old wind rows where trees have previously been logged.

He urges everyone to stay clear of the riverbed and fire scenes.

“The fires are still active and the entire area is dangerous for the public to be in or around.”

Time spent asking people to leave the area took resources away from fire-fighting.

The nor’west winds were unpredictable and ember transfers could start spot fires up to 200m away.

Mr Janes says that North Canterbury remains in a Prohibited Fire Season and he advises people to avoid any activities that have the potential to cause sparks.