Christchurch Port Hills fire: Cordons lift, more than 1400 fire evacuees able to return to check their homes video

The remains of a destroyed home in Christchurch.
BEVAN READ

The remains of a destroyed home in Christchurch.

More than 1400 evacuees are now allowed to return home as cordons are slowly lifted in fire-affected areas of the Port Hills.

About 450 households were evacuated and at least 11 homes destroyed in out-of-control fires threatening Christchurch which have been burning since Monday.

Starting in Marleys Hills, the blazes grew to cover 1800 hectares of land by Friday morning, Christchurch Civil Defence said.

Persistent drizzle is falling on the Port Hills on Friday afternoon.
BRADEN FASTIER

Persistent drizzle is falling on the Port Hills on Friday afternoon.

The cause of the fires remains a mystery, but there is nothing to indicate they were deliberately lit, according to Canterbury's top police officer.

READ MORE: 
Live: Fighting the Christchurch fires
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 and independent fire investigator Ken Legat had both suggested the fire was suspicious, but Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price said that would be a "quantum leap".

St Albans fire crews and DOC staff work on the smouldering burnt remains of properties from fire near Worsley Rd.
BRADEN FASTIER/FAIRFAX NZ

St Albans fire crews and DOC staff work on the smouldering burnt remains of properties from fire near Worsley Rd.

"Police and the New Zealand Fire Service, as well as rural fire, are jointly working together on what the causation of the fires are," Price said.

"Just like any fire, we are working together to determine the cause, but it is definitely not suspicious at this stage," Price said, an opinion backed up by fellow police officers Superintendent Lane Todd and Detective Inspector Greg Murton.

The Summit Road fire was reported about 90 minutes after the Early Valley Road fire, Murton said.

MetService

MetService national forecast for the weekend includes welcome showers, though not heavy rain, for the Port Hills.

CORDONS LIFTED FOR 1400

Ad Feedback

The cordons at the corner of Early Valley Road and Old Tai Tapu Road and at the corner of Osterholts Road and Old Tai Tapu Road was lifted on Friday afternoon.

Much of Westmorland has now reopened and with the earlier lifting of the cordon at the corner of Cashmere Road and Penruddock Rise (accessible only from the east) and there are now no cordons on Old Tai Tapu Road.

A resident passes through a cordon on Kennedys Bush Rd.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

A resident passes through a cordon on Kennedys Bush Rd.

Cordons can be lifted only after full risk assessments have been completed, including asbestos and geotechnical hazards, but lifting all of them was a high priority, Civil Defence said on Friday afternoon.

Remaining cordons were controlled by Civil Defence, but manned by police and Defence Force personnel, with assistance from visiting US Coastguard personnel. 

Evacuated residents will be able to enter cordoned off zones to retrieve essential supplies.

BEVAN READ & TONY WALL

Hot spots are being dampened using pool water within the fire zone.

An application process has been set up for people to collect items such as medication, clothing, documents and sorely missed pets as well as to move livestock.

Residents who register to enter the cordon will be contacted with information as to when they are able to go to their property, and will be accompanied by a police officer.

To apply, people should call 0800 800 169 or fill out a request form on the council's website.

Evacuated residents may soon be allowed home.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Evacuated residents may soon be allowed home.

The Te Hapua Halswell Centre remained open as an evacuation centre on Friday, while two others, at Nga Hau E Wha Marae and in Selwyn, had closed.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said many returning to their houses would notice a strong smoky smell lingering, but it did not present any long-term harm to people's health.

DRIZZLE 'LIKE SPITTING ON A BARBECUE'

Firefighters regroup to battle the Port Hills blazes.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Firefighters regroup to battle the Port Hills blazes.

Persistent drizzle is falling in Christchurch, quelling the nerves of residents, but making the jobs of firefighters dampening the blaze more difficult.

But wet conditions, which were expected to continue through the weekend, were making it more difficult to identify hotspots and reducing visibility, rather than providing the relief expected.

"We really did not need this rain," sector boss Phil Crutchley said.

Drizzle was falling in Christchurch on Friday morning, and people were hpeful it would dampen fires in the Port Hills.
HENRY COOKE/FAIRFAX NZ

Drizzle was falling in Christchurch on Friday morning, and people were hpeful it would dampen fires in the Port Hills.

"The guys were making a lot of progress. Now it's made it a lot more difficult."

Incident commander Richard McNamara said it was "like spitting on a barbecue".

"We don't need it to be honest. We could have done with it in three days time."

Fairfax NZ

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

Winds were forecast to pick up on Friday afternoon and there was still extreme heat in the ground and in vegetation, which posed a "very real risk" of flare-ups, Civil Defence said shortly before midday on Friday.

MetService forecaster Aidan Pyselman said with the north to northeast flow over the area, cloud should thicken and patchy drizzle was expected.

"We're hoping for a bit more rain from earlier tomorrow morning, with the stuff over the North Island at the moment slowly sinking southwards."

MORNING REPORT/RNZ

"It's encouraging isn't it? You come out here and they're having a chat to you and they're still smiling". Guyon Espiner catches up with incident controller Rob Hands last night while some of the firefighters were having a much needed meal break.

SMOKE AND HEAT DAMAGE RISK

Hundreds of homes near Christchurch's Port Hills may be at risk of fire damage, even if they are spared from flames sweeping through the area.

Police expected "a large number of homes" in the area would have been damaged by the smoke and heat, if not the fire itself, Civil Defence said.

"The number of damaged homes in total will not be known until the fire emergency has ended."

Civil Defence was unable to give any information about the status of individual homes inside the fire zone.

"We are aware that this is an extremely anxious time for residents who have had to leave their homes and we are working with other agencies to arrange for this information to be passed on to homeowners in the affected areas as soon as the information becomes available."

FIRES 'RE-TRIGGERING' TRAUMATISED CANTABS

Christchurch might be slowly returning to normal, but health professionals are warning that the impact of disaster could go on for a long time.

A manager of Christchurch's Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support said the strains of the fires were "re-triggering children and adults"

"Widespread need for mental health and addiction services will be ramping up again.  

"We are certainly fielding calls from parents with hyper anxious children, and people for whom this traumatic time has been the final straw in their tenuous emotional wellbeing."

Experience and research suggested those who had been hyped up on adrenalin during the fires could feel shaky, queasy, on-edge, and find it hard to concentrate on the days after, All Right? manager Sue Turner said.

Anger and crying was normal, with ways to de-stress including light physical activity, taking up a small chore or focusing on calm breathing for 10 seconds.

"You need to pace yourself. Go slow and steady, and look after yourself."

The best advice Turner had for anyone experiencing issues was to phone their GP. After hours they would be put through to a 24/7 nurse.

The Canterbury Earthquake Support Line was also still available for people to access on 0800 777 846

A BLAZE LIKE NO OTHER

Civil Defence's Christchurch controller, John Mackie, described the blaze as "beyond anything we've ever had to deal with".

The fire was largely contained but not yet under control, but the firefighting effort was shifting from air-based to ground-based firefighting.

"Water drops won't put the fire out completely so we have to back that up with the heavy machinery to put fire breaks in and dig out the hot spots. That's where a lot of our focus is today with diggers working at several locations, along with 15 helicopters and three fixed wing aircraft," Civil Defence said.

In areas that diggers could not access to create fire breaks, fire retardant would be dropped to stop the fire's spread.

Fifteen tonnes of flame retardant would arrive on Friday afternoon aboard a Defence Force Hercules C130.

Mackie said it would be a great help to fire crews.

"There are wetting agents that break down the surface tension of the water droplets so they're much more effective . . . it makes a litre of water go a lot further than it might otherwise.

"We've never needed it in such quantities. This is an event that's beyond anything we've ever had to deal with . . . especially on a city fringe.

"Two thousand hectares is quite a rarity and this is one out of the box. We've had a run of bad luck, that's for sure."

COMMUNICATION ISSUES

Mackie said Civil Defence was relying on people to follow media reports and social media for information about when they would be able to return to their homes.

"We don't have things like individual cell phone numbers . . . We should have a better handle on [timeframes for people being able to return home] closer toward the end of [Friday].

Criticism regarding the emergency response would be addressed later, Mackie said.

"We're really focusing on getting this thing dealt with. The structures and the systems we currently have in place, they may not be ideal but there's a lot of people working hard out there.

"Criticism doesn't help engagement of those volunteers who have put in huge hours in the last four-five days and it's not their day job."

There had also been "a lot of speculation" on the cause of the fires, but "there's nothing definite yet".

Investigators had begun work to identify the cause, he said.

THREE HOSPITALISED

Three people had been taken to Christchurch Hospital with injuries related to the fire – two with smoke inhalation, and the third with an injury suffered while evacuating.

A spokeswoman for the Christchurch District Health Board said a female firefighter was having trouble breathing after suffering smoke inhalation but was "fine" after treatment.

A 9-year-old boy was also admitted with asthma "exacerbated by the smoke", while a man was admitted after injuring his ankle while evacuating his property.

FIRE BAN, AREAS OUT OF BOUNDS

There was a total fire ban in place in North and Canterbury, and fire region manager Steve Turek said it was important no fires were lit to ensure the Fire Service could concentrate its efforts on the Port Hills.

Emergency services were preparing to continue their operations for the weekend, if not longer, with their priority keeping the major blaze away from people and property.

Civil Defence recommended no recreational activities, such as camping, cycling or picnics, within an area where it warned the fire and smoke could spread.


The yellow line boundary shows where further fire spread and smoke could pose a risk and cause health concerns.

Non-residents were urged to stay away from the area to allow access for emergency services.

Residents within the zone who had not already been evacuated were not affected.

If further evacuations were required, those would be led by Civil Defence, but anyone who felt unsafe or anxious was advised to self-evacuate.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Kiwi confronts wild Canadian bear gallery

The black bear appeared to be undisturbed by human presence.

Suddenly face-to-face with a bear, an awe-struck Kiwi backed away slowly, camera poised.

Thunder, rain and hail pelt Auckland video

Hail in Wattle Downs left an impressive coating on one resident's deck.

The north has been walloped by heavy rain, wind and hail - and the odd rumble of thunder.

Alzheimer's sufferer found

72-year-old Minnie Holloway, who went missing on Friday evening, was found on Saturday morning.

A 72-year-old woman who went missing overnight in Auckland has been found safe and well.

Death at rowdy Auckland party

Police are investigating a suspected homicide after a party turned ugly on a "relatively quiet" Auckland street.

Police treating death of 25-year-old as suspicious after "noisy" party turned fatal in the early hours.

Wellington

Piano man hits the road

03082017 News Photo MONIQUE FORD / STUFF
national portrait of Michael Houstoun
concert pianist orchestra musician symphony

Grit and determination are as necessary as a pair of hands if you want to be a soloist.

Books behind bars

Research shows study can "significantly reduce the risk of re-offending following release" according to Corrections.

Two inmates invite us into their world to show how study is transforming them.

Tory St's imaginary makeover

Wellington's takeaway coffee cups would be re-used in a unique way in this Victoria University student design.

Victoria University landscape architecture students reimagine quake-hit Wellington street.

Electric car runs on $10 a week video

Nathan Murrell says his Nissan Leaf is "dirt cheap" to run, and loves Wellington's hills.

Owner sings praises as electric vehicle numbers in Wellington double in a year.

Canterbury

The final running of the balls? video

The Cadbury Jaffa Race on Baldwin St.

Welcome to the annual, and potentially last, Cadbury Jaffa Race.

Saved by phone light

Chris Coory, of LandSAR, with the rescued group, from left, Melissa Bowley, Lauren Rees, Meg Pidegeon and Skyla Bowley, ...

"Another five seconds later we wouldn't have seen it," says rescue pilot.

PM hospital protest video

Generic hospital

PM rushed out side entrance of Dunedin Hospital after protesters stormed building.

Missing women, young girl found

Chris Coory, of LandSAR, with the rescued group, from left, Melissa Bowley, Lauren Rees, Meg Pidegeon and Skyla Bowley, ...

Light from phone screen helps helicopter find missing women and child in the early hours.

Waikato

Sir Colin Meads 'very unwell'

Sir Colin Meads in Te Kuiti at the unveiling of his statue in June.

Rugby great is very ill, his wife says, but "holding his own".

Woman not dead following crash

The scene shortly after the car and trailer plunged into the river.

A person has died after a car and trailer plunged into the Waikato River at Cambridge. Traffic is gridlocked.

$4.6m for SH1B

Associate Minister of Transport Tim Macindoe, left, and NZ Transport Agency regional relationships director Parekawhia ...

Work to make the road  near Gordonton safer will start in September and be finished by early 2018.

Shops under siege

Police at the scene of a robbery on Rifle Range Dairy.

Manning the counter of the corner dairy these days merits combat pay.

Taranaki

A long awaited sickness

Taking a day off to look after sick kids is the worst decision you will ever make. (File photo)

You could take a day off work to look after sick kids or you could just run for the hills.

Person trapped in car

Police attended a car crash in Inglewood on Saturday. (File photo)

A person was trapped in their car after their door caved in when they crashed.

Dancing Key fails to raise cash video

John Key Vid Cover

Naive organisers got thousands, including John Key, dancing for a fundraiser which made very little money.

Community fridge launches

Sean Warren organised the fridge as a way to help people in the Inglewood community.

Instead of throwing away their spare food, Inglewood's residents are being encouraged to pass it on to those who need it.

Manawatu

Volunteering in Jordan

Zoe Dekker will head to Jordan to help Syrian refugees. She is walking 100km with her father, Paul Dekker, to raise money.

Zoe Dekker is heading to Jordan to help Syrian refugees.

No injures after crash

Police attended a one-car crash on Manawatu's Saddle Rd.

Police were called to a one-person car crash on Friday night.

Roller derby dreams come true

Swamp City jammer Helen Burke, aka Menace, on the burst against the Dead End Derby at CET Arena 3.

Roller derby is one of the fastest-growing women's sports in the world and it's on a roll in Palmerston North.

More signs needed

Jodeci Day, 6, was hit by ute on Highbury Ave and her mum Casey Bush is now calling for more school sings down the road.

The mother of a young girl hit by ute while walking home from school is calling for more signage.

Nelson

The long road back

Dan and Andrea with son Andre and daughter Yasmina. The Nelson family are recovering from the impact of a serious road ...

It was a routine trip home after a long weekend, but in seconds a Nelson family's lives were turned upside down.

Funding cut for GP patients

Collingwood Health on Collingwood St, Nelson.

A Nelson GP practice has had its funding for patients cut.

Art Expo draws crowds

More than 1000 people have already attended the  the sixth running of  Art Expo Nelson 2017, held at the Trafalgar ...

Nelson's Art Expo Nelson has returned to its original home.

Richmond on the rise

Andrew Spittal says he expects the first stage of The Meadows residential development will have either 66 or 80 sections.

A whole new community will spring up in Richmond, with more than 1000 homes and a new school.

Marlborough

Her brain said they wouldn't survive

Dan and Andrea with son Andre and daughter Yasmina. The Nelson family are recovering from the impact of a serious road ...

Andrea screamed "like a banshee" as the car ploughed into her family at 100kmh. Then, a moment of reason.

Man named after logging death

The fatal accident happened near Blowhard Ridge in the Wairau Valley, about 40 kilometres west of Blenheim.

The Marlborough man who died in a logging accident has been named by police.

OK children, back in your couches

Whitney Street School pupils, from left, Paige La Frentz, Mason Moffatt, Blake Shefford and Danae Perkin work at a group ...

Gone are traditional desks and chairs, it's all stools, cushions, teaching tables and group desks these days.

Family wins $1 million

The winning ticket for Wednesday's draw netted a Blenheim family syndicate $1 million.

Playing the same lottery numbers week in, week out for 30 years finally pays off for family syndicate.

South Canterbury

Timaru man eyeing Tai Chi gold video

David Thew will be attending the World Kung Fu Championships in China this November.

A Timaru man has his eye on bringing home his third gold medal when he competes at the World Kung Fu Championships in China.

Hospital services key 

Timaru Hospital.

Services key to Timaru Hospital rebuild, observers and sector groups say.

Pye Group supreme winner

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said the Business Excellence Award finalists were named ...

South Canterbury businesses recognised at gala awards function.

480 pieces of plan feedback

People were given the opportunity to comment on the Timaru District Council's future spending commitments, what kind of ...

Instead of formal submissions to Timaru's long-term plan, residents were invited to answer an online survey entitled "Our Place, Our Future?"

Southland

Robotic seal helping dementia patients

Enliven Southland quality of life co-ordinator Shannon Tokona and nurse Julie Worner with Paro the robotic seal, who is ...

Meet Paro, the robotic seal helping elderly dementia patients.

Car hits cop, dog

The scene on Dee St, Invercargill, where a police officer and dog were hurt as a spiked car came to a halt.

A policeman and dog went under a car as officers tried to subdue a driver in Invercargill.

Teen murder accused can be named

Name suppression has been lifted for teen accused of murder in Invercargill.

An Invercargill teenager accused of murder can now be named.

Bottled water improvisation

Invercargill woman Christine Brown, with husband Lee, before her face reconstruction at Dunedin Hospital on Tuesday.

Surgeons reconstructing Christine Brown's face were thrown curveball when operating theatre's water was contaminated.

Ad Feedback