NZ Local News

Port Hills fire day five: Half of identified hotspots eliminated, firefighters to continue work overnight

Editor Written by Editor · 2 min read >


Half of the hotspots across the Port Hills fireground have been “eliminated” today and fire crews will continue work at the scene overnight ahead of an “increased fire risk” tomorrow.

Overnight drone flights across the Port Hills identified 58 hotspots by thermal imaging that ground crews targeted in today’s firefighting operations.

Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) incident controller Steve Kennedy said the day shift had put in a big effort to cool 28 of the pinpointed hotspots.

“Firefighters with hand tools and hoses were supported by heavy machinery to dig out and expose the hotspots. Helicopters were dropping water on the largest areas,” said Kennedy.

There were 86 firefighters and other personnel working on the fire today, supported by diggers and bulldozers. Five helicopters were also available.

Crews would remain at the scene working overnight to reduce the risk of the fire flaring up in high winds forecast tomorrow.

Half of the identified hotspots have been "eliminated" today by fire crews. Photo / Fenz
Half of the identified hotspots have been “eliminated” today by fire crews. Photo / Fenz

Fenz’s specialist drone crew would also resume thermal imaging flights tonight to identify hotspots that would be “tackled by firefighters tomorrow”.

“Fenz has worked with Christchurch and Selwyn Civil Defence this afternoon to home-deliver fire safety information to residents nearest the fireground. Houses that were evacuated last Wednesday have had a letterbox drop letting them know about the expected high winds and encouraging them to be aware and prepared to act,” a statement this evening read.

Kennedy said people across Canterbury should be aware of the increased wild fire danger tomorrow and be careful not to do anything that could spark a fire.

“That ranges from activities like welding and grinding outdoors to mowing or harvesting. If activities can’t be postponed until later in the week they should be timed for early in the morning when conditions are more likely to be calm and cool,” he said.

A total fire ban across Canterbury north of the Rakaia River is in place.

Operations manager Rob Hands surveys the damage done during the Christchurch's Port Hills fire. Photo / Chris Skelton
Operations manager Rob Hands surveys the damage done during the Christchurch’s Port Hills fire. Photo / Chris Skelton

Police were actively investigating earlier today after a private drone flying near the Port Hills fire grounded helicopters for up to an hour.

Drones were not permitted to operate within 4km of any aircraft taking off or landing, which meant most of the Christchurch city around the area.

“That actually brings our firefighting capability down with the helicopters having to go down, those pilots are working incredibly hard in a very technical role and that’s the last thing they need,” said Canterbury police Inspector Ash Tabb.

“For the members of the public, if you do see a drone in the air, please bring 111 immediately.”

Kennedy said the private drone being flown in the area was a huge safety risk for fire crews, and was probably one of the biggest risks they had faced at the Port Hills to date.

Lee Reihana and other firefighters continue their efforts to dampen down remaining hot spots. Photo / Chris Skelton
Lee Reihana and other firefighters continue their efforts to dampen down remaining hot spots. Photo / Chris Skelton

Fenz added that the Christchurch City Council had closed the Port Hills walking and cycling tracks, and roads leading to the fire ground were still restricted to residents only.

Kennedy said that at the end of day five fighting the Port Hills fire, the safety of firefighters, response personnel and the public remains the highest priority.

“Crews are doing hard, physical work in hot conditions, and on very steep terrain in some places. Training, equipment and safe working practices are fundamental and in a long-duration event like this fire, fatigue management is reinforced to everyone,” he said.

The fire spread over an area of about 700ha as a local state of emergency was declared for Christchurch City, including Banks Peninsula, and the Selwyn District. Photo / George Heard
The fire spread over an area of about 700ha as a local state of emergency was declared for Christchurch City, including Banks Peninsula, and the Selwyn District. Photo / George Heard

At its height, over 100 firefighters, 28 fire engines, 14 helicopters, and two planes were battling the fire on Thursday. The fire spread over an area of about 700ha.

The cause of the fire has has yet to be identified, though all evacuees have been allowed to return home.

A charity organisation called the Christchurch Foundation has opened a fund to assist in replanting of trees in the impacted areas.

Meanwhile, MetService meteorologist Gerrard Bellam said gusty, dry northwesterly winds are set to strengthen for Christchurch tomorrow afternoon as firefighters enter their sixth day of fighting the blaze.

“Luckily with a front coming, we’ve got a cooler southerly change for Christchurch on Monday evening and then some showers later on for the city,” said Bellam.

Conditions ahead of the southerly should see high 20C-plus temperatures for the east of the South Island, then temperatures are likely to plunge from tomorrow afternoon.

“On Tuesday, Christchurch and Ashburton will only see a high of 18C and Invercargill only 14C, so about 4C below average and a bit of a cool change for them,” he said.

Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com