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Christchurch Port Hills fire ‘contained but not out’, operations to continue until Thursday

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As fire operations on Christchurch’s Port Hills continue into day six, Fire and Emergency (Fenz) say the blaze is contained but is not out.

Fenz incident controller Steve Kennedy said crews are focusing on about 40 hotspots considered at risk.

“Conditions have changed around Port Hills since there is some cool weather today, [Fenz] managed to fly helicopters around and the drones have identified new 17 hotspots overnight,” he said.

“Fortunately with it being a bit cooler, it’s probably a bit easier on our crews up there, so it’s not so hot.”

“We are aware of the fatigue factor with our crews and making sure that they’re getting plenty of rest and hydration up there as well,” Kennedy said.

Fire and Emergency incident commander Steve Kennedy says firefighters are working to dampen hotspots. Photo / Joe Allison
Fire and Emergency incident commander Steve Kennedy says firefighters are working to dampen hotspots. Photo / Joe Allison

Kennedy confirmed about 120 people were still working on the fire.

“The vast majority of them are firefighters on the ground, which would be 100-plus. We’ve still got four aircraft available for us down here as well.”

The fire operations around the Port Hills are expected to run until at least Thursday.

“We are hoping as time goes on and once we get past the weather conditions today, we may be able to start reducing crews,” he said.

Operations manager Rob Hands surveys fire damage in the Port Hills fire as firefighters continue dampening down remaining hot spots. Photo / Chris Skelton
Operations manager Rob Hands surveys fire damage in the Port Hills fire as firefighters continue dampening down remaining hot spots. Photo / Chris Skelton

Today is flagged as a high fire-danger day across Canterbury because of the hot, windy conditions.

MetService meteorologist Gerrard Bellam last night said Canterbury High Country would be under a wind warning until 3pm.

“The severe northwest gale in these areas could gust up to 130km/h in exposed places, but it will be a short and sharp spell of wind.”

The east of the South Island can expect 20C-plus highs before temperatures drop significantly in the afternoon, Bellam said.

Kennedy said that means any new fires will move very quickly and be hard to bring under control.

“We have the resources to respond to multiple incidents, but we’re asking everyone to do their part to prevent any more fires starting,” he earlier said.

Christchurch City Council controller Brent Smith said: ”We’re still under a state of emergency and we will do so until we get to the point where it doesn’t require the multi-agency effort.”

“We want to thank the public for the patience and the respect they’ve given the firefighters here, it’s made it a lot easier to get their job done,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, 50 firefighters are working to get on top of a scrub fire in North Canterbury.

Emergency services were called just after 8pm on Sunday to the large “fast-moving” blaze burning through gorse and scrub near Waikari Valley Rd in the Hurunui District.

Homes were evacuated near Waipara as firefighters battled a large vegetation fire in Waikari Valley. Photo / George Heard
Homes were evacuated near Waipara as firefighters battled a large vegetation fire in Waikari Valley. Photo / George Heard

Five helicopters responded to the fire but three with monsoon buckets were grounded due to the wind. The other two, with specialised equipment, are continuing to operate.

“The fire is currently uncontrolled and has largely burned out, but remains a risk due to high winds,” a Fenz spokesperson earlier said.

There have been no reported livestock losses, or any structures lost or damaged.



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