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Fire crews expected to stay till March

Report from RNZ
Wakefield evacuees have spent their first night back home after their town was declared safe from the nearby forest fire, for now. There is still no word on when hundreds evacuated from valleys south of the town will be able to return home.

Emergency services are expected to maintain a presence in the fire-affected region into March.

People who attended community meetings in Appleby and Hope last night were told trees have become unstable and could topple, as the land is so dry, the fire has gone deep into the ground and into roots.

The area needs 75 millimetres of rain for grass to green up, but there is no rain on the 15-day radar.

Fire Emergency New Zealand’s fire controller Trevor Mitchell told Morning Report the forecast for today was a little bit of wind from somewhere between southwest and northwest, but “nothing that’s in excess of what we were dealing with on Sunday”.

“The fire is not spreading but we wouldn’t call it contained. Still got an awful lot of hot spots within the burnt area. A lot of the burnt area is quite patchy and because of the size – 25km around, 2300ha – it’s going to be a lot of work.”

He said Wakefield residents needed to be alert and possible evacuation instructions will remain in place for several days if not weeks.

“It depends on if we get a decent dollop of rain. There’s nothing on the horizon for us which is bad news.”

As for the situation in the valleys, he said fire-affected trees were dangerous and there had to be more assessments before firefighters were sent in or people were allowed back home.

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