Christchurch Port Hills fire: Two admitted to hospital with smoke-related breathing problems video

Fairfax NZ

The Port Hills fires are some of the biggest in recent New Zealand history.

Three people have been admitted to Christchurch Hospital following the fire, as smoke continues to cause irritation around the city.

About 450 households had been evacuated and at least 11 homes destroyed in out-of-control fires threatening Christchurch which had been burning since Monday. Starting in Marleys Hills, the blazes quickly grew to cover about 1800 hectares on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Christchurch District Health Board said a female firefighter was having trouble breathing when she was admitted for smoke inhalation.

A female firefighter was having trouble breathing when she was admitted to hospital for smoke inhalation.

A female firefighter was having trouble breathing when she was admitted to hospital for smoke inhalation.

But she was treated and was "fine", the spokeswoman said.

A nine-year-old boy was admitted with asthma "exacerbated by the smoke", while a man was admitted after injuring his ankle while evacuating.

Live: Homes evacuated as Christchurch Port Hills fire rage out of control
Photos: Christchurch Port Hills fire - day four
House burned down in front of his eyes
Christchurch Adventure Park village and base station survive night
Christchurch family devastated their home is ash


Prime Minister Bill English says the Port Hills fire looks like arson "to someone like him"


It's unclear what has caused the Port Hill fires in Christchurch but Prime Minister Bill English believes it "looks suspicious".

A helicopter drops water on scorched earth in the fire-ravaged area of Westmorland.

A helicopter drops water on scorched earth in the fire-ravaged area of Westmorland.

English visited the Christchurch command centre on Thursday, saying he was confident in the performance of officials and firefighters who were doing their best to control the blaze.

Ad Feedback

Asked whether he had been briefed about the cause of the fires, English suggested arson was a possibility.

"I've only had a very brief description of the fire starting in two places at about the same time, which to someone like me looks suspicious, but those investigations are underway."

How the Port Hills fires affect you

Share your stories, photos and videos.

Earlier on Thursday, Superintendent Lane Todd from Christchurch police said it was too early to say if any of the fires were deliberately lit. 

A small team of investigators was working with the Fire Service to determine how they began, Todd said. 

English downplayed Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee's stinging criticism of the emergency response to the Christchurch fires on Wednesday, saying "bureaucratic processes" could be dealt with later.

Flames head toward houses on Worsleys Spur, Christchurch.

Flames head toward houses on Worsleys Spur, Christchurch.

"Gerry's very experienced at this, he's done it for five or six years now, very regularly.

"He has a very clear opinion about it and that'll be worked into any review of the process."


This satellite image taken Thursday morning shows the scale of the fire in the Port Hills.

This satellite image taken Thursday morning shows the scale of the fire in the Port Hills.

Helicopter pilots on Thursday afternoon continued to fight the fires near Christchurch, focussing on "lives first, houses second".

Fourteen helicopters were fighting the blaze alongside more than 130 firefighters, focusing on front in the northern area of the Port Hills.

They were joined by 26 rural fire crews made of more than 200 personnel, Fire Service staff from both Nelson and Timaru, and three fixed wing planes.

Lynn McKay (left) talks with other residents waiting to be taken by police escort to their properties in Kennedys Bush.

Lynn McKay (left) talks with other residents waiting to be taken by police escort to their properties in Kennedys Bush.

Christchurch Helicopters pilot Dougal Monk said five of the company's helicopters, and two military-grade Iroquois, were focused on "lives first, houses second" around the Worsley Spur area.

It was the largest fire many of his crew had seen and one they would be fighting for days to come, he said.

The efforts of ground crews meant there was less heat and smoke on Thursday, giving pilots greater opportunity to "attack the perimeter" and slow the fire's spread.

Ashleigh Probert and one of her four dogs that her father got out from their Kennedys Bush property on Wednesday. She ...

Ashleigh Probert and one of her four dogs that her father got out from their Kennedys Bush property on Wednesday. She went back in on Thursday to get medication for her father.

However it was too early to say whether the situation was improving.

"It's better than it was yesterday but at this time yesterday we thought it wasn't that bad. The afternoon is the critical time when the temperature and the wind go up."

Striking satellite images showed the size of the fires, with smoke extending well out to sea.

The Defence Force had sent more personnel and vehicles to help evacuate residents and fight the fires.

Wildfires rip through bush on the slopes of Christchurch's Port Hills.

Wildfires rip through bush on the slopes of Christchurch's Port Hills.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Loftus said 35 army personnel from Burnham Military Camp were sent on Wednesday night to help police check on residents in affected areas and evacuate those from Westmorland and Dyers Pass Road on the outskirts of Christchurch.

"We are poised to provide additional assistance if required and have a number of capabilities on standby," he said.

"The immediate priority is to get the residents to safer ground."

Fire burning in Victoria Park, Christchurch, on Wednesday evening.

Fire burning in Victoria Park, Christchurch, on Wednesday evening.


As the blazes grew, more stories emerged of rushed evacuations, loss - and also hope.

Evacuated as wildfires closed in, Tim Fournier was anxiously waiting to hear if he still had a house.

David and Michael Chadwick, 3, watch the Port Hills fire from State Highway 75 on Wednesday.

David and Michael Chadwick, 3, watch the Port Hills fire from State Highway 75 on Wednesday.

Fournier, a lawyer, and his family were evacuated on Wednesday night and their property was still within the cordoned-off area.

"I'm trying to get information. In these situations it always seems hard for the people actually affected to get information."

Devastated Worsley Rd resident Henry Reese  watched through a thick haze of smoke as his family home burned to the ground on Thursday morning. 

Civil Defence opened an evacuation centre at Te Hapua Halswell Centre.

Civil Defence opened an evacuation centre at Te Hapua Halswell Centre.

"I don't think my brain is playing tricks on me. I'm 99 per cent sure we're watching our house burn down. I can't believe it's just caught on fire after it survived the night."

"Our [house] looked all good, but we haven't seen any choppers all morning and it [the fire] has just started up again badly, it's unbelievable."

Civil Defence said at midday that 11 houses had been lost, and two sheds - four houses on Worsleys Rd, four on Hoon Hay Valley Rd, two houses and a shed on Early Valley Rd and one house and one shed on Burkes Bush Rd.

There had been much conflicting information given over the number, with eight houses believed lost earlier on Thursday and as many as 40 on Wednesday night.


Waiau St resident Jo Manuel said she watched the fire all night from her house.

Her street, off Worsleys Rd, had not been evacuated but she had a bag packed.

"I watched it all unfold."

The fire stopped at a ridge about 500 metres from her property but the most spectacular sights were from Sugarloaf, near Dyers Pass.

"It's devastating. I'm just so thankful for our community. Watching the helicopters leave was awful. I thought 'don't go we need you'."

Helicopter crews were stood down overnight as fighting the fires in the dark was too dangerous. They returned to the air at day break on Thursday.


Westmorland resident Jo Lord said police hammered on the door of her Petworth Place property just after midnight.

"We'd heard on the radio about 6pm that Westmorland was being evacuated but we didn't know where or when.

"We decided we would stay but arranged with a couple of friends who offered us space, but after midnight . . . we didn't feel like descending on them."

After seeing the setup at Te Hapua Halswell Centre, they chose to spend the night there, Lord said.

More homes around Christchurch's Port Hills were being evacuated on Thursday.

About 450 households had been evacuated around Victoria Park and Dyers Pass Rd, Worsleys Rd, Westmorland and Kennedys Bush, with hundreds of other residents choosing to self-evacuate, the council said.

Civil Defence said police were evacuating residents downhill of the Sign of the Takahe on Dyers Pass Rd as far down as, and including, Kiteroa Place and Pentre Tce.

Affected residents would be contacted directly by police, who had been knocking on doors.


An evacuation centre in southwest Christchurch would likely be open most of Thursday. 

Welfare supervisor Julian Barrett said the Te Hapua Halswell Centre sheltered nine people overnight, and several others chose to sleep in the car park with their pets.

"They didn't want to leave their animals."

Social workers were at the centre on Thursday morning to help those in need.

"There are a couple of distressed people out there who've been evacuated."


If you're worried leave now - don't wait, police were telling residents.

"We understand it's hard for people to leave their homes but the fire can change direction and move incredibly quickly," Senior Sergeant Ash Tabb. "If you're worried, don't leave it too late - it's better to be safe than sorry."

Police urged the public to stay away from the bottom of the Port Hills to keep the roads clear for emergency services and enable swift evacuations. 

About 128 homes remained without power in the Port Hills area as at 4pm on Thursday.

Lines company Orion said the city's power supply stood up well overnight, but lines in the fire-affected area remained off the grid.

Further outages were possible until the fires were fully extinguished.

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers

Prison barbie canned

North Auckland's Paremoremo Prison cancelled a barbecue intended for some of its inmates with psychological and ...

The barbecue had been planned for some of Auckland Prison's most disturbed inmates.

Why are our cities stinking?

Land around the Piako River in Waikato flooded in early April.

First the flooding, then the warm weather. A perfect cocktail of conditions for stench, Niwa scientist says.

Memories in ink

Rebekah Henderson, 27, is waiting for a life-saving double lung transplant.

Before Rebekah Henderson gets a new pair of lungs, she wants to pay tribute to the friends she lost to the same illness.

Bashed with metal pipe

Luke White was attacked by seven window washers and required stitches for his injuries.

Group of window washers stole a brain-injured Auckland man's sunglasses then beat him with a copper pipe.


'I don't need 13 Reasons Why'

Aroha McKenzie lost her daughter, Jacinta, to suicide in 2015 and faces a real experience similar to the controversial ...

Aroha McKenzie's daughter committed suicide. She's written an open letter to her and explained why she's against "13 Reasons Why".

Karori hospital scam

A Google listing for the fictitious St Vincent Ranui Hospital, supposedly in the Wellington suburb of Karori.

Bogus hospital in Wellington suburb used to target foreign doctors wanting to work in NZ.

Congestion eases on SH1

Traffic heading north on the way into Paekakariki on Friday night.

Traffic is flowing freely again after long northbound delays on the Kapiti Coast.

Hotel closure hits wedding plans

The Amora Hotel in Wakefield St is to close for major renovation work.

Couple had venue booked and invitations sent when Amora announced closure.


Invercargill shootings: A tragic end

Verity and Ben McLean, pictured in 2016, during happier times.

The city has been rocked to its core after a love triangle turned fatal. Where did it all go wrong?

'Raids aren't games'

Liam Burrowes, 16, has been jailed for three years for two armed robberies of the Woolston Night n' Day store on Ferry ...

A teen will serve an adult jail sentence for two armed dairy raids that left his victim fearful and struggling to sleep.

Shooting victim's ex-All Black dad

A forensic tent at the Otepuni Ave address where Tuesday night's shooting took place.

Woman allegedly shot and killed by her cop husband was daughter of ex-AB Bob Barber.

Three-car crash closes lane

Two people were injured in a crash on Main South Rd and Curletts Rd.

Two people suffered moderate injuries after a crash at a busy Christchurch intersection.


Ghost school to be demolished

The school has been unused for 13 years and will now be demolished - even derelict pool will go.

For 13 years it sat empty and derelict. Now, the school - with a rateable value of $2.54 million dollars - will be demolished.

Ref raids accounts

050711 NEWS. Robert Charles/Taranaki Daily News. Cheque/ cheque book. Money. Bank.

Colleagues blew the whistle on referee who swiped $13K and a video camera.

Health bosses eye prison growth

Waikeria Prison is earmarked to become the country's largest prison.

Growing inmate numbers and a new bill will test Waikato's health services.

Beach commute gets safer

NZTA central North Island regional Director Parekawhia Mclean and MP David Bennett on SH23.

Highway between Hamilton and Raglan is in line for $9m in safety improvements.


Kiwi dies in France

Beau St George, his fiancee Herminie Gouard  and their daughter, Joan.

The New Zealand man killed in car crash in France had Taranaki links and was weeks away from getting married.

McFarlane recovering

Long serving Waitara councillor Craig McFarlane is still recovering in hospital after suffering a stroke in February.

Council colleagues keen for deputy mayor to have time to recover

"Don't send me to jail"

A young man's heartfelt plea to a judge saw him receive home detention instead of jail for a raft of offences.

"I hate being in trouble and looking like a meat head, this behavior is not who I am," man tells judge.

Mystery pack 'rescued' 

An unusual search and rescue mission was launched on Mt Taranaki, after a backpack was left behind at Holly Hut.

A backpack left behind in a mountain hut had people thinking the worst.


Sculpture pops up in courtyard

28042017 News photo DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ
New Dibble sculpture of couple of huia sitting on a perch.

Sculptor Paul Dibble's latest work was too big for its exhibition space - so it's now perched outside.

Arson a 'cry for help'

Scott Peter Bulman was sentenced at the Palmerston North District Court for arson.

A man committed arson so he would be locked up. The courts obliged.

Wrongfully convicted man dies

Palmerston North man David Dougherty, who was wrongfully accused of rape, has died.

David Dougherty, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and abduction, has died. 

Fire ravages home

Three people escaped from a fire at a house on Upham Tce in Palmerston North.

Three people escape a house fire in Roslyn, Palmerston North.


Crash upsets the apple cart video

A stretch of the Coastal Highway near the intersection of Pukeko Lane was strewn with apples and boxes after a truck's ...

Traffic delays continue after cruck carrying thousands of apples spills load.

Guilty of murder

Philip Quayle died after being attacked on a street in Cairns, Australia, about 100 metres from home.

A man who choked a Nelson man to death during a random street attack in Cairns has been found guilty of murder.

Salisbury hopes with new minister

Salisbury School has been locked in a battle with the outgoing Education Minister since 2012.

Salisbury School hopes a change in Education Minister will help its case to stay open.

Eye check waiting list cut

The ophthalmology service at Nelson Marlborough Health has been remodelled which has cut the waiting list for those ...

A remodelled ophthalmology service has made big inroads in those needing sight checks.


A real Kaikoura 'cliffhanger' video

A digger working to clear SH1 near Kaikoura was buried by a slip.

Dramatic video shows a digger high up on a cliff face on the Kaikoura Coast, half-buried by a slip.

Air force keeps quiet

United States Air Force personnel in the Anzac parade on Tuesday.

Troops on the ground and planes in the sky, but little is known about US Air Force in Marlborough.

The lowdown

Co-owners Simone and Chris Hill with dog Sam

If you haven't yet popped into Cinnamon House Design in Blenheim, it's worth a visit.

The $500m quake bill

Road damage and closures was one of the big costs from the Kaikoura earthquakes.

The November earthquakes are expected to cost New Zealand around half a billion dollars.

South Canterbury

Parents remember 'talented' son

Rowan Yeager died following a crash near Lake Ohau on Anzac Day. This photo, supplied by friend Andrew Weatherall, shows ...

Man killed in crash near Lake Ohau was just a week off moving into house he built by hand.

Cleverley 'exonerated'

Former South Canterbury District Health Board chair Murray Cleverley has spoken out for the first time about his ...

Former SCDHB chair Murray Cleverley says decision to resign as chair was tough.

'We have got a lot of work to do'

SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor says the DHB is going try and improve low rates of HPV vaccination by providing more ...

SC has a 'poor' HPV vaccination rate, prompting the DHB to turn to social media.

Strong winds lash SC

Police were called to the scene of a camper van crash on Friday afternoon, thought to be caused by the wind.

Tourists escape with minor injuries after two campers blown off road south of Tekapo.


Shark attack video

The French tourist arrives at Dunedin Hospital by helicopter after she was attacked by a shark while bodyboarding in ...

A surfer has been attacked by a shark at a beach in the Catlins in Southland.

Struggle after shooting

Ben and Verity McLean.

Families say they're humbled by the outpouring of support and compassion.

Deputy mayor resigns

Cr Darren Ludlow.

Darren Ludlow has resigned as deputy mayor of Invercargill.

SDHB propose axing 23 jobs

Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming.

"There will be some people very positive about what we're proposing, and there will be some negativity."

Ad Feedback