NZ fires: authorities mull letting thousands go home

NZ Civil Defence is hoping to be able to allow some of the thousands of residents forced to evacuate fires on the South Island, to return home soon.

Although strong winds were expected to further fan the fires that have been burning for a week through New Zealand's South Island, the agency said on Monday morning it it has made "some progress" on the ground, and hoped to allow residents to access their homes. A final decision would be made at 4pm NZ time (2pm AEDT).

Smoke rises from a busfire coming over the ridge behind a residential area in Wakefield, New Zealand, on Friday. Credit:AP

The Pigeon Valley fire covers 2300 hectares, with a 25-kilometre perimeter. Another is burning in Wakefield.

"We are still actively planning for Valley residents to be able to return home. At this stage we are not able to say when that can happen, except that it will not be today.

"However, we have continued to enable restricted access for residents of the four Valleys today and will continue to do so on a daily basis, provided the conditions are safe, the agency said in a statement.

No deaths have been reported and only one home destroyed.

Helicopters drop water on a moving bushfire in Wakefield, New Zealand.Credit:Newshub/AP

"There is some concern about predicted high winds this afternoon, which are expected to test the control lines," the agency said earlier.

Early on Sunday, 155 firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground with air support from 23 helicopters and three fixed wing planes, making it the largest aerial firefight on record in New Zealand.

Up to 3000 people have been forced to leave the Wakefield and Pigeon Valley areas.

AAP, Stuff, The Age

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