Port Hills fires: State of emergency to lift, hill residents on alert for flare-ups

A fire ban has been lifted in South Canterbury on Wednesday, but restrictions remain in place across the Canterbury region.

A fire ban has been lifted in South Canterbury on Wednesday, but restrictions remain in place across the Canterbury region.

The state of emergency in Christchurch and Selwyn triggered by the Port Hills fires will be lifted at 6pm on Wednesday.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton consulted Civil Defence and police and fire authorities before deciding to lift the ban, which was put in place on February 15 and extended for another seven days the following week. 

The fires, which started on February 13, ripped through 2075 hectares on the hills. About 450 houses were evacuated, nine homes destroyed and two partially damaged.

A "period of transition" will replace the state of emergency for the next 28 days, granting special powers to those leading the recovery efforts.

Weekend rain does little to cool smouldering Port Hills
Loss of plant life in Port Hills shown in satellite images 
Drone use impacts firefighting efforts on Christchurch's Port Hills
Damage beyond the flames 


Despite the lifting of the state of emergency, hill residents have been warned to be on alert for fire flare-ups as warm conditions settle in for the rest of the week.

Civil Defence advised those living within the fire perimeter to be ready to leave if needed as warm temperatures, low humidity and northwesterly winds were forecast.

Over 99 per cent of the fire that ripped through the hills and damaged 11 homes was now considered to be under control, with at least a 10 metre break between the edge of the fire zone and vegetation.

Kennedys Bush Rd opened to the public on Wednesday, but nearby walking and biking tracks remained barricaded as fire operations continued.

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Meanwhile, a total fire ban in South Canterbury has been lifted, but restrictions remain in place across the region.

Local fire restrictions returned in South Canterbury at 12pm on Wednesday, except in Mid-South Canterbury which became a restricted fire zone on February 28. 

The lift would allow farmers with permits to burn off crop residue and comes after a ban was imposed by the National Rural Fire Authority for the entire Canterbury region after the Port Hills fires.

Fires remained prohibited in Selwyn, Christchurch, Waimakariri, Ashley and Hurunui. 

National rural fire officer Kevin O'Connor said the bans would continue due to the very dry conditions, the high risk of fires developing quickly into wildfires and the ongoing efforts to extinguish the Port Hills fire.

 - Stuff


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