Up in smoke: What the Port Hills mean to Christchurch video

STUFF.CO.NZ

How a fire in Christchurch's Port Hills developed into a city-wide state of emergency.

If you are a firefighter working in Christchurch right now, stop for just a second and stand tall.

That feeling you have is several hundred thousand Cantabrians patting you on the back with gratitude.

I cannot fathom what it's like to turn up for a shift at work, only to find yourself face to face with an unpredictable blazing inferno. 

First we looked down in horror at our quake-ravaged city. Now we look up at spiralling plumes.
OLIVER WATSON/SUPPLIED

First we looked down in horror at our quake-ravaged city. Now we look up at spiralling plumes.

To every firefighter who has risked their life to battle these fires - thank you, you are all heroes.

READ MORE:
Live: Christchurch fires edge closer
Fires: What you need to know
Brownlee slams belated response
Governors Bay Bush destroyed
In Pictures: Choppers battle blaze
Smoke pollution 'as bad as Asia'
Fires reach Victoria Park
Wildfires visible from space

For the first time in six years, hearing helicopters overhead this morning made me happy.

If the fire had got to the transmission tower, Christchurch could have lost TV channels for up to 48 hours.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

If the fire had got to the transmission tower, Christchurch could have lost TV channels for up to 48 hours.

Like many earthquake-weary Cantabrians the noise of helicopters or sirens can still make me momentarily tense as it is a reminder of a frightening post-earthquake time six years ago.

Do you remember the photographs taken from the Port Hills which showed dust rising from around Christchurch city after the 2011 earthquake?

As we near the sixth anniversary of that tragedy, it feels almost as if the scene is reversed.

The sky above Christchurch glowed orange on Wednesday night as the Port Hills blaze burned.
Mark Hannah Photography

The sky above Christchurch glowed orange on Wednesday night as the Port Hills blaze burned.

Back then we took to the hills, looking down upon our earthquake-damaged city in horror.

Ad Feedback

Now we are looking up to the our fire-ravaged Port Hills, staring horrified at the spiralling smoke plumes and dust clouds.

It's nothing short of devastating.

Helicopters near Sugar Loaf, see from Westmorland on  Thursday morning.
Iain McGregor

Helicopters near Sugar Loaf, see from Westmorland on Thursday morning.

My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and especially to the family of David Steven Askin, a true hero who lost his life while working to save others.

Yesterday friends evacuated their homes, posting pictures online of giant flames photobombing their houses, their cars loaded with pets bundled in cages or wide-eyed children.

It felt chaotic and their panic, even from the distance of a screen, was palpable.

The view from the top of the Port Hills is stunning.
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ

The view from the top of the Port Hills is stunning.

Like the tsunami warning debacle of last November, there seemed to be little clear direction from authorities for affected residents.

What do these fires mean for Christchurch?

It's important to remember that we collectively lost so much after the earthquakes. These fires feel like yet another major blow to the city.

Slack-lining in the Port Hills, Christchurch's recreation zone for all kinds of activities.
Ethan Takerei

Slack-lining in the Port Hills, Christchurch's recreation zone for all kinds of activities.

After the earthquakes, with our swimming pools, sports grounds and centres largely destroyed, the welcoming green-jewel of the city, the Port Hills, became our playground.

Nestled around the city, a familiar, comforting sight in an unknown place we lived called "new normal".

Last year more than 1.2 million people visited the Port Hills.

An Alpine Fault rupture may take two minutes to be felt in Christchurch.
John Kirk-Anderson

An Alpine Fault rupture may take two minutes to be felt in Christchurch.

Post-earthquake, many residents used the hills as giant green gym, jogging the gentle curving slopes of the Harry Ell track or puffing up the steep Worsleys Spur.

To stand at some point on the Crater Rim was to be struck by our city's abundance of natural beauty – the stunning views of the harbour on one side, the majestic Southern Alps on the other.

The potential loss of the Adventure Park is particularly galling. It's a fun-filled giant symbol that Christchurch was moving forward, that, finally, something was happening in the rebuild. To be uncertain of its future so soon after celebrating its opening is disheartening.

Biking at Montgomery Spur on the Port Hills offers fabulous views of Christchurch, when not covered with smoke.
Graham Allan

Biking at Montgomery Spur on the Port Hills offers fabulous views of Christchurch, when not covered with smoke.

Kia kaha, we say to each other here whenever Mother Nature lets one rip.

It means, of course, "stay strong". But the phrase has, perhaps, also changed and deepened in meaning for Cantabrians.

Sometimes kia kaha can also mean: "We feel your pain, we acknowledge your pain, we can't believe that we are having to go through this either. Seriously, what next? Freaking locusts? We are strangers but we're in this together and we will do whatever we can to help you get through this."

As people were evacuated yesterday, I watched online as hundreds of people offered strangers beds, clothing, food and transport.

Cantabrians rushed to offer strangers their homes: "I've got two rooms, a double bed, plus three tents and room for your pets" posted one person, "dinner's on, beds are made up, room for four" posted another. Other people offered to drive livestock to safety and feed and care for beloved pets.

Armies of people baked for, and fed and watered our hard working firefighters and police force.

This spirit and heart is what it means to be a Cantabrian.

There's a 90-year-old I know who is good at dispensing a bit of wisdom when required.

She grew up in the depression and lived through the Blitz.

As her home is in the vicinity of the fire's devilish red fingers, I called to check up on her.

She tells me that she's been making cheese scones for the fire service and police since the sun came up.

"That's what you do in difficult times. You look after each other as best you can, you do your bit. Hopefully the Christchurch summer will be on course and the rain will come soon. In time the grass will grow and we will run on the green hills again."

Kia kaha, Christchurch.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

One house but two homes video

The house is designed with two distinct "wings" to give each couple their own space. The only shared space is the foyer.

Buying a first home in Auckland's Grey Lynn was little more than a dream for two young couples - until they pooled their resources.

'We're just thrilled he's here'

Alec Gannaway celebrates his birthday at Auckland City Hospital surrounded by family. From left: sister Rose, mum Joy ...

Two weeks ago, Alec Gannaway was dragged by a car and put in a coma. Today, he's 21.

Senior cop sex complaint

A police officer is under investigation after it was alleged he harassed and molested a woman more than 10 years ago ...

Woman claims she was harassed and sexually assaulted over several years - and was nicknamed 'Spice'.

Girl missing for three weeks

Tamia Apaapa was reported missing on March 27 and was last seen in school uniform.

Tamia Apaapa, missing since March, made contact with her family on Monday evening.

Wellington

Rare falcon shot dead

Doc is outraged after a rare falcon was killed in Nikau Valley, Paraparaumu.

DoC furious over killing of protected bird, which could lead to jail sentence or a $100k fine.

Capital's mystery jet

A jet with blocked details landed at Wellington Airport on Monday evening.

Gulfstream jet with blocked flight tracker credentials touches down in Wellington.

Councillor under investigation

Kapiti Coast District councillor David Scott has denied any wrongdoing for his part in the alleged incident with a ...

Kapiti councillor David Scott accused of grabbing senior manager's hips and 'pressing' himself against her.

Claim of brawl at club rugby game

A player was allegedly kicked in the head following a Stokes Valley v Johnsonville match on Saturday. (FILE)

Alleged thuggery mars J'ville v Stokes Valley match: "It was the worst s--t I've seen in my life."

Canterbury

Brownlee recalibrates for role

Gerry Brownlee is our new Foreign Affairs minister.

Brownlee switches from combative to diplomatic as he prepares for new role.

Funeral home OKed

Halswell residents are upset at plans by Lamb and Hayward to build a multi-million dollar funeral home on the corner of ...

Residents are vowing to fight the decision to approve a Halswell "spiritual facility".

Driver leapt to safety

Fire crews were stood down after the driver of a crashed digger near Little River, Canterbury, escaped unharmed (file photo).

A driver escaped unharmed after digger rolled off a rural Canterbury road.

Brickbats and bouquets for Gerry

Gerry Brownlee is signing off as rebuild minister. What does the city think?

City leaders and residents react to news Gerry Brownlee will no longer be the rebuild boss.

Waikato

Tangiwai unveiling brings relief

Tangiwai train crash disaster in 1953.

A special memorial will set the record straight about two railway workers who helped save 134 lives.

Two sides of the trench

21042017 News Photo: DOMINICO ZAPATA
News: Bulent Yaprak and Caren Yaprak (Kiwi/Turk and Kiwi wife) discuss what ANZAC ...

There's always another side to the story. Want to hear the other side of Anzac Day? Ask a Turkish Kiwi.

Fraudster guilty

Matamata man Brian Duffell leaves the Hamilton District Court following an earlier appearance.

Brian Duffell owns up after fleecing investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Punk show for Anzacs

Hamilton punk band BattleCat is leading an Anzac eve gig, with all door sales going to the RSA.

Hamilton punks are banding together to raise beer money for RSA members this Anzac eve.

Taranaki

Cat caught living second life video

Simba the cat has been living a second life under the alias, Crazy Horse. His two owners Mychaela Groombridge and ...

He likes to disappear for days - but it turns out Simba's been involved with another woman.

Chong coy on future

Councillor Murray Chong has laid complaints about a fake Facebook profile set up claiming he was running for New Zealand ...

Murray Chong isn't too sure whether he's interested in standing for New Zealand First or not. 

A dangerous exercise

There have been a spate of crashes on Taranaki roads this month.

OPINION: Taranaki, I think we have a problem.

Taranaki night time delight

Tim Bond has wanted to capture the Aurora Australis for years, finally succeeding Sunday night at Dawson Falls.

A photographic dream has finally come true for Tim Bond.

Manawatu

Fighting through pain

Aimee Perrett knew something was wring when she jumped on the bike.

Aimee Perrett completed an ironman race despite the effects of a rare disease.

Grand prix to stay

Manfeild Chief executive Julie Keane says the Feilding venue is committed to growing the New Zealand Grand Prix.

Manfeild fights off two other venues to keep the New Zealand Grand Prix. 

Slip closes Manawatu Gorge

The Manawatu Gorge is closed following a slip.

A slip has blocked both lanes of the Manawatu Gorge, closing it overnight.

'We slept in an Agent Orange area'

Murray Wardlaw, a veteran of the Malaysian Confrontation and the Vietnam War.

"Scared? You bet, but I was a soldier. I knew what to do, and how to do it..."

Nelson

Seas the day

23042017 NEWS PHOTO VIRGINIA WOOLF/FAIRFAX NZ

Russell Blowers, left, with David Puklowski as he arrives into Nelson ...

After braving high seas and mechanical blips, Nelson's Dave Puklowski had a welcome home befitting his epic efforts to help a mate.

Deadly carelessness

Kenneth Michael Wolnak has admitted careless driving causing death and injury.

A heart surgeon has been ordered to pay $165,000 for causing the deaths of two men in a horrific Nelson crash.

'Loss of innocence'

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber said the man's offending amounted to a "gross breach of trust".

A woman who was sexually violated as a teen confronted her abuser in court.

Govt backs families' diary fight

14042017 NEWS PHOTO MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

Margaret Kearns of Stoke Nelson with a copy World War One (WW1) diary ...

Kiwi war memorabilia locked in a UK university will be pursued by the government.

Marlborough

"I must belong somewhere"

US Marines in Wellington in 1942 on a train to Paekakariki.

Her birth certificate only revealed the name of her mother, not her father.

Grape spill bill

Zeolite, a multipurpose absorbent is spread over a grape spill at a roundabout in Blenheim.

The bill for clearing the roads of spilled grapes in Marlborough's harvest has so far come in at $17,000.

Funding gets green light

With State Highway 1 closed, the alternative inland route through Lewis Pass is suffering increased wear and tear.

Marlborough's transport committee has approved a request from NZTA to give them access to $15m upgrading the alternative route.

Hobbit designer's winery concept

Jackson Estate directors Jeff Hart, left, and John Benton in front of the new winery and cellar door modelled on an ...

They call it collision architecture, an 1850s-style settler's hut wrapped into a new boutique winery.

South Canterbury

New book on war hero

Tom O'Connor has published a book on Waimate war hero Eric Batchelor.

The life of one of New Zealand's most decorated soldiers has been detailed in new book.

Acid spill investigated

Leaking acid prompted an emergency response at the Redruth Resource Recovery Centre on Monday.

Investigation launched after acid leaks from containers at Redruth landfill site.

Realities of war recalled video

World War II veteran Bill Cocks receives Anzac biscuits baked by YMCA Oscar holiday programme participant Hunter Duggan, ...

Timaru children have heard about the realities of war from South Canterbury veterans.

Extra long weekend for some

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce president John Cannell says he has heard of some employers asking their employees ...

Some employers ask staff to take Monday off making for another long weekend.

Southland

Five Eyes could be in Invercargill

Passengers disembark the United States Of America aircraft at Invercargill airport.

An unusual landing at Invercargill Airport has been said to be visitors for the Five Eyes intelligence network.

New Zealand's most rural burglary?

A brazen thief has stolen hundreds of dollars worth of home kill, dozens of cheese rolls, a Swanndri, and some gumboots ...

It's enough to make any Southerner weep into their Speight's.

Te Anau wastewater saga continues

Southland Mayor Gary Tong.

Talk of an alternative site for the Te Anau wastewater scheme remains on the council's mind, after its agreed alternative fell over.

Milford Sound shift

Community Trust of Southland chief executive officer John Prendergast.

The Community Trust of Southland is investigating whether it might be able to bring Milford Sound under its wing.

Ad Feedback