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Hot work . . . Firefighters check for hot spots after blaze in the Medbury reserve destroyed nearly a hectare of a historic kanuka stand. Photo: Supplied

By staff reporters

Prized vegetation in a 55-hectare reserve in the Hurunui district has again been ravaged by fire.

The blaze, started by a spark from a mower, damaged a valued stand of 200 to 300-year-old kanuka in the Medbury reserve, administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). The reserve is also home to a critically endangered grassland daisy found nowhere else in the world.

Fortunately, firefighters were able to stop the blaze from getting near the heart of the reserve on Shimmins Road, where the daisy grows. The fire was confined to a 300m by 60m strip.

DOC biodiversity ranger Brian Taylor said the fire burnt down the reserve’s southern boundary, and it was fortunate there had been irrigated pasture on one side of it.

The fire still had a major impact on the reserve, one of only a few areas of dry alluvial terraces in Canterbury that have remained in a natural state for hundreds of years.

But the kanuka, already decimated by fire in the early 2000s, now only covers about 6.5ha of the 55ha reserve.

A fire in the early 2000s burnt through 14.4ha of the natural historic area remaining after previous fires and revegetation programmes, leaving a 7.4ha stand. The most recent fire claimed a further 0.9ha.

The fire was fought by crews from Hawarden-Waikari, Culverden and Scargill.

Three other fires in the rural Hawarden-Waikari area have kept the Hurunui Rural Fire Force busy in the last week, all started in pits or on ground that had been lit some time ago. All were supposedly out.

Rural Fire Officer Gary Millar says it is imperative people check any old burn piles.

“It is no use looking and saying the fire is out. You have to feel the ground around the pile. If it is warm or hot, the fire is still burning underground.

“It can re-ignite anywhere and needs to be wet down until the ground or pile is cold.”

All the fires could have been prevented, he says.

While rain is forecast this week and next, it would now take significant falls to substantially ease the risk across the region.