Fire co-ordinator ranks Christchurch Port Hills blaze 'on another level'

The fire edges closer to Christchurch on Wednesday.

The fire edges closer to Christchurch on Wednesday.

In a career spanning decades and numerous fires, Richard McNamara says the Christchurch Port Hills fires are on "another level".

The rural fire boss for Marlborough is helping co-ordinate the air attack against the blaze and said its proximity to the city made it a significant threat.

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.

Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara is helping co-ordinate the fire ...

Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara is helping co-ordinate the fire response in Christchurch.

McNamara is no stranger to raging fires, with experience fighting some of the worst fires of the modern era including the Black Saturday bush fires in Australia.

Marlborough's principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara: A bull in a herd of cows
Location markers a must-have for rapid response, firefighters say
Christchurch Port Hills fire: 'Large number of homes' may be damaged by smoke, heat

He has headed aircraft operations and incident control for the Canterbury fires since Wednesday and said it ranked as one of the worst of his career.

The Port Hills fire has destroyed homes, forced evacuations and resulted in the death of a pilot.

The Port Hills fire has destroyed homes, forced evacuations and resulted in the death of a pilot.

"You can have a massive fire but if it's in the wilderness it will burn without a huge impact on people," he said.

"The human impact of this fire is on another level. We can replace a forest or a home, but we can't replace a person."

Starting south of Christchurch in Marleys Hills, the fires had grown to cover more than 2000 hectares of land.

A fire burns above homes in Cracroft.

A fire burns above homes in Cracroft.

The fires had already claimed a life, after helicopter pilot David Steven Askin crashed near Sugarloaf while battling a blaze on Tuesday afternoon. 

Ad Feedback

Askin was a former war hero once injured in a Taliban shootout and McNamara said he was a well-respected pilot.

Dry grass and steep slopes, combined with high wind, made this fire difficult to battle, McNamara said.

A map showing the fire area, which covers more than 2000 hectares.

A map showing the fire area, which covers more than 2000 hectares.

A small amount of rain on Friday morning did lift spirits, but McNamara likened the effect to spitting on a barbecue.

"This fire has had a significant effect in Christchurch and we need to be aware of the sensitivities of people right now," he said.

"This has been a huge impact on those suburbs and we are doing all we can to rid the community of this threat."

The view from Pak 'n Save Moorhouse on Wednesday.

The view from Pak 'n Save Moorhouse on Wednesday.

McNamara, the Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer, said it was important for firefighters and incident controllers to remain calm and ensure the fire was extinguished.

"For the people impacted, this is their emergency. As leaders in the response the thing we cannot do is become victims."

The fire risk remained too high in Marlborough to allocate any crews to the battle in Christchurch, McNamara said.

"We have good fire management in Marlborough but we need those people there," he said.

"We probably have the highest fire risk of anywhere in the country right now, probably even higher than the Port Hills and Canterbury."

Marlborough Kaikoura deputy principal rural fire officer John Foley said crews from the Marlborough Sounds might be dispatched if the Christchurch fires kept spreading.

 - The Marlborough Express


Ad Feedback
special offers

Planes to take a different route

Ten more aircraft a day will be permitted to use the Green X23A Smart Approach flight path to Auckland Airport.

In an effort to conserve fuel, more aircraft flying into Auckland will use a flight path that is normally limited to 10 planes a day.

Woman's arm 'ripped apart'

The Northland Rescue Helicopter rescued the woman after her arm was almost torn off by machinery.

59-year-old's arm "wound back to her body" after becoming entangled in rural machinery.

Time's running out to enrol to vote

Eastern Courier reporter Imogen Neale.

Eastern Courier reporters explain in English and Mandarin people have until tomorrow, September 22, to enrol to cast a ballot.

How often do hospital staff wash their hands?

The national compliance rate for hand hygiene is considered appropriate at 80 per cent by the Health Quality & Safety ...

Waitemata DHB's June audit reveals which staff are best and worst at hand hygiene.


Craft brewery 'swansong'

Whistling Sisters co-founders Bede Roe, left, and Russel Scott.

Man behind Ombra and Belgian Beer Cafe Leuven to open new rooftop bar and brewery.

Heading to trial

Wellington Police found cash hidden in a wall cavity during raids in Porirua and Tawa on April 11, 2017. (File photo)

Lawyer says covert drug operation was believed to be the biggest yet for the Wellington region.

Avoiding an Election Day red card

All Black Israel Dagg, left, was forced to delete an Election Day tweet where he declared his support for the National ...

Desperate to tweet how you voted on Election Day? Resist the urge until 7pm.

4WD rolls on flat sand at Kapiti

The damaged four-wheel-drive SUV that rolled on Paraparaumu Beach this week.

4WD dented and damaged after coming a cropper on Kapiti beach


Crash victim a post-quake battler

Eileen Pearce in her New Brighton home. After four years fighting for a rebuild, she settled with Tower Insurance, but ...

Eileen Pearce, 86, spent the last years of her life fighting her insurance company over her Christchurch home rebuild.

Business 'finished'

Grace Development 2008 Ltd's Troy Lange had a contract to work on Christchurch Hospital's new acute services building ...

Firm working on Christchurch Hospital's acute services building had contract cancelled with 2 days notice.

Kayak joyride costs tourists

Three English tourists stole a kayak from a Franz Josef company on Tuesday and took it across Lake Mapourika in South ...

Trio did not wear lifejackets nor clothing "fit for conditions" - and police were waiting.

Embracing the walk-run video

Having coffee with friends has become an acceptable activity to do in activewear.

As election week heats up, Maddison Northcott slows down to a PM-inspired walk-run.


Moorby's Top 5 this weekend

The Waikato Cherry Tree Festival will be held on September 23 and 24.

It's election weekend but there's an array of other events on if politics isn't your thing.

Library fix approved

Councillors approved $635,000 to earthquake strengthen the Hamilton Central Library. Another $87,000 will be used to add ...

Hamilton's central library will be brought up to earthquake standards.

Mayor calls for hold on school

Taupo Mayor David Trewavas is asking for a hold to be put on the school going into the small community (File).

Taupō Mayor calls time after concerns raised about new charter school.

Yes, we should save Waterworld

Councillors unanimously approved the spending to replace failing parts of 40-year-old Waterworld.

Future of city's premier swimming facility secured despite a host of problems.


Frustrating build-up for cricket season

Tom Bruce will miss Taranaki's Chapple Cup tournament.

Cricket season rapidly approaching.

Dud cheques land woman in dock

Writing a series of dud cheques has landed a  New Plymouth woman with 19 court convictions. (File Photo).

This woman wrote cheques she knew she couldn't cash.

Shoplifter stole under staff's noses

The Bunnings store in New Plymouth was targeted twice by a shoplifter, who brazenly walked out with thousands of dollars ...

A shoplifter's booty included a fireplace, clothesline, chainsaw, tools and plumbing gear.

The 'hero' in the beauty aisle

Shane White's training kicked into action as soon as he got to the man who collapsed in the beauty aisle.

Ian Foreman collapsed in a New Plymouth supermarket only for the produce manager to save his life.


Another feather in artist's cap

13092017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF		
Artist Joe Mcmenamin has worked with Lytton St School kids making a large, ...

Artist brightening up Manawatū streets with mural artwork.

One killed in crash

Ambulance leaving scene of a fatal crash on state highway 1 near Foxton.

Road reopened after state highway crash that killed one driver.

The perils of Government

From left, National candidate Adrienne Pierce, Money Free Party candidate Scott Andrew and Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway ...

OPINION: National's candidate was ganged-up on and faced tough questions.

Saddle Rd smoothed out

The Manawatu Gorge closed on April after several slips.

Motorists say the maintenance work on the Saddle Rd has improved its condition


Straight to the pointe

Gillian Francis takes a class of students at the Nelson Dance Academy.

Forty years of running one of Nelson's best known dance school has seen Gillian Francis teach thousands of boys and girls how to dance and perform.

School's Link fears


Sonya Hockley, Auckland Point School principal outside the Haven Rd ...

Auckland Point School principal worried the Southern Link will stop local kids attending.

'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Who are you voting for?

Who are you voting for?

How are you voting on Saturday? Have your say in our election poll.


Netballer not ready to call time yet

What it's all about. Former team mates, Bridget Gane and Tokomaru rival Tash Ford, share a laugh in the heat of battle ...

You can't put a price on loyalty.

Miners knocked back

Judge Pope, of Canvastown, is pleased the gold mine resource consent has been turned down.

Proposed mine in the heart of a historic gold rush town expected to make its US owners $7m a year is turned down.

When one door closes..

Business owners Holly Bonnington, right, and Kay Nicholls (centre) at the Sneaky Beach Cafe in Havelock.

The Sneaky Beach Cafe opened this week in Havelock, much to the excitement of locals.

'Taylor-made' for trees

The first planting event in 2014 saw  Marlborough Landscape Group members, from left, Helen Ballinger, Ralph Ballinger ...

 It began as an idea to enhance the river and has branched out into something much bigger.

South Canterbury

A toast to the bicycle video

Graeme Simpson is preparing to take a collection of old bikes to Waimate to celebrate 200 years of the bicycle.

Bicycles of all shapes and sizes to be celebrated in 200th anniversary event.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

Businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.


Fears community heart will be lost

Queenstown Arts Centre coordinator Andie King said an art gallery, community groups and workshop spaces should be ...

The council says the location could provide "a combined Council office and a community heart."

Riley Baker memorial to stay?

Dunedin photographer Riley Baker with his partner, Amy McPherson. He died in hospital from injuries after a tourist ...

Mayor tells Dunedin crash victim's family his ashes can stay put, but NZTA says that's not confirmed.

Taylor taking on players half his age

George Taylor plays a shot during the Southland Town vs Country match last season.

Sixty-two-year-old Southland tennis ace George Taylor will be up against players half his age as he prepares for the Seniors World Team Championships in Miami.

Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search have failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe


Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated. (File photo)

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Crash on Tay St

Several police cars blocking the the Tay St-Queens Dr intersection after an accident involving a motor cycle in Invercargill.

Police have arrested a motorcyclist who failed to stop for Police and crashed into a car in Invercargill this morning.

Turei fronts to city students

Metiria Turei speaks to Aurora College students in Invercargill.

Even on the brink of a knife-edge election, Metiria Turei doesn't regret telling her benefit story.

Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Ad Feedback