'Two to three atom bombs' of energy in Port Hills fire

Charlie Gates

A flythrough showing the impact of the Port Hills fire in Christchurch.

The Port Hills fire contained the energy of two to three atom bombs, fire response coordinator Richard McNamara says.

McNamara has fought fires all over the world, including the Black Saturday fires in Australia, and said he had never seen anything like it.

"The energy that those crews and those fire pilots are trying to combat, at its height, is the equivalent of 100,000 kilowatts. I'll put that in perspective for you: that's 100,000 one-bar heaters per metre of fire front."

A helicopter dumps fire retardant on wildfires on Monday.
REUTERS

A helicopter dumps fire retardant on wildfires on Monday.

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"Those crews are trying to deal with the energy of something like two to three atom bombs."

"This fire was on another level. There was a fire tornado at one point that was the width of this room, and it went up 180 feet (54 metres)"

Richard McNamara: "There was no way on god's earth that we could have saved those homes."
ANTHONY PHELPS/FAIRFAX NZ

Richard McNamara: "There was no way on god's earth that we could have saved those homes."

McNamara appeared before an audience of hundreds of residents still cordoned out of their homes at a community meeting on Saturday morning.

He said anyone who though the recent rain would end the fire was deeply mistaken.

"If you think its gone away because you think there's been a bit of drizzle - someone coined the term 'spitting on a barbecue'. That's absolutely right."

Fires burn in the Port Hills above Christchurch on Wednesday night.
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN / FAIRFAX NZ

Fires burn in the Port Hills above Christchurch on Wednesday night.

He said strong winds and lower humidity could cause the fires to flare up again. Fire services were working to lay layers of firebreaks around the entire 29 kilometre perimeter.

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"This fire is unique in New Zealand. It's unique in that it has impacted so many lives."

 - Stuff

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