Christchurch Port Hills fires trigger a state of emergency

Vids 15/02/2017

The fires have triggered a state of emergency.

More than 1000 people have had to evacuate due to a massive blaze that has ripped through through Christchurch's Port Hills.

Evacuations are continuing on the Port Hills on Thursday morning as the fires continue to burn.

A total of 450 properties have been officially evacuated, affecting an estimated 1000 people.

Police went door-knocking at the downhill area of the Sign of the Takehe as far as Kiteroa Place. Others have self-evacuated as the fire spread overnight.

The fire now spans around 1800 hectares across the hills, with latest reports that it has now spread to the harbour side of Sugarloaf.

Seven houses are believed to have been damaged by the fire since yesterday, on Early Valley Road and Worsley Road.

Residents were forced to grab what they could and flee on Wednesday night.

At least eight houses have been destroyed in the past two days after being engulfed by flames, and with the fire continuing to spread, fears remain for the safety of other homes.

Evacuated the day after moving in

Jasmine Peate-Garratt was evacuated from her home– after moving in just the day before.

Speaking to The AM Show, she said it's hard to know what is going to happen, and she is overwhelmed by how big and out of control the fire is.

"It seems like it's got out of control pretty fast. It's just been constant helicopters going overhead," she said.

She was asked to evacuate her home at midday on Wednesday, and is now staying with friends.

Anxious wait beyond the evacuation zone

A Cashmere resident who lives outside the evacuation area says she is mainly concerned about the speed at which the fire is travelling.

"I'm feeling OK at this point, but pretty devastated, really, when you look at the damage out there."

She said they are keeping a close eye on the fire and are ready to go if need be.

"We gave an emergency kit ready to take with us and personal things in case we are gone for a while.

"We have cats locked inside, cat cages ready [and] the dog locked in his crate, ready to go."

Better safe than sorry 

Resident Garth Hammond told RadioLIVE when his family heard there were evacuations near where they lived, they immediately started packing - even though they weren't in the evacuation zone.

"They were evacuating the top of Kennedy's Bush Rd last night and we live down the bottom, and my wife went home from work early and packed up all our camping gear and packed up our boat and fishing gear," he said.

"We grabbed the photo albums and the hard drives, and she came and met me at work on the way home."

So many people were fleeing that their quiet, rural street "was like a main road", Mr Hammond says.

"For us it was just unreal. It was surreal. But to look back across from the city now and see it all burning, and you can see the flames and you can see flashing lights and all the rest of it... it's been three days now.

"It's quite scary. It's just another thing for the people of Christchurch, after all the earthquakes and all the stress and everything that people have been through."

For Mr Hammond, the important thing is that his family and his neighbours are safe.

"The rest of it can just burn," he said.

Offers of help pouring in

Offers of help for evacuees are pouring in on social media. People with spare rooms for evacuees are posting on Evacuation Housing. There are also offers of paddocks and kennels for animals that have also been moved from the evacuation zone.

One woman posted at 9.09am on Wednesday saying that she was facing potential evacuation and needed help with her pets – including an old dog and cat. "We will let the chooks out of the coop if we need to go", she said.

Within one minute, someone had offered to take the animals. Within five minutes, there were three offers of help for the animals and someone had offered to provide a room and transport.

Several fires have raged since Monday, merging into one mammoth blaze overnight on Wednesday which is covering more than 1850 hectares.

While police and the Defence Force are going door-to-door to evacuate, anyone concerned should self-evacuate, police advise.