March 23, 2018

New Zealand fires: State of emergency declared as blaze threatens Christchurch

17 February 2017, 02:02 | Kevin Scott

The wildfires as seen in the Adventrue Park area of the Port Hills today

The wildfires as seen in the Adventrue Park area of the Port Hills today

A state of emergency has been declared in the area and authorities have been sent in to help firefighters with the two fires.

An increase in humidity was helping efforts although strong winds were also fanning the flames of the wildfire, which was spread over 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres) in Christchurch's Port Hills.

Residents of 400 homes have been evacuated by police, who have 50 staff working around the clock in response to the fires.

Prime Minister Bill English reportedly announced that the New Zealand Defence Force is on standby, stating the fires are now "disturbingly close" to communities.

Earlier media reports have comment from independent fire investigator Ken Legat suggesting the fire was "certainly suspicious", but Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price said that would be a "quantum leap".

He said the region had been unusually dry for the past three years and the grass in the hills had turned brown over the summer.

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The city council has advised people to stay away from Port Hills to allow emergency services access and to ensure swift evacuation. "And we had to go and tell our kids", she said.

"Right before the Sign of the Kiwi we could see smoke from the other fire in the distance, but in front of that there was what looked like a large campfire and some wisps of smoke", Fellers said. Almost a dozen homes were also destroyed by the flames.

New Zealand's military was providing water tankers and engineering equipment as well as firefighters and other personnel.

Mr Askin was dumping water on the blaze when his helicopter came crashing down, the courageous emergency worker died at the scene. "And I just yelled 'Get out".

Mr McKenzie believes the fire could have been stopped on Monday night if the crews had acted faster.

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