20 Nov 2023

Fire in Christchurch's Port Hills has residents worried

From Checkpoint, 5:14 pm on 20 November 2023

A fire in Christchurch's Port Hills on a dry breezy day had residents hoping they were not in for a repeat of the disastrous 2017 blazes.  

And it raises questions about whether we need to be on high alert this fire season.

At least four fire crews and three helicopters managed to contain today's blaze in just over an hour but State Highway 76 between the city and Lyttelton closed to allow firefighters to carry out their work.

New Zealand is in for an El Nino summer - and in the past that has meant stronger or more frequent winds from the west causing drier conditions.

And Europe has already experienced record breaking temperatures during its summer coupled with devastating and deadly wild fires.

A helicopter fighting a fire in the Port Hills on 20 November 2023.

A helicopter fighting the fire in the Port Hills earlier today. Photo: Deon Swiggs

Fire and Emergency wildfire manager Tim Mitchell said generally the fire risk was low across the country but the Port Hills fire was a reminder that "low risk doesn't mean no risk".

But that would change moving into the Christmas and New Year period, he said.

The summer was likely to yield stronger westerly winds, warmer temperatures and lower rainfall, particularly in the east coast of both the islands.

"We are expecting higher than normal fire danger rates this season, that's quite a change from the last couple of seasons where the conditions across the country have actually been pretty low [risk for fires]."

All property owners should start preparing for the fire season by keeping grass and vegetation under control since once that dried out it would make good conditions for fires to start and spread, he said.

"Make sure they mow the grass, particularly around items of high value, ie houses, sheds and structures - keep that grass short coming into this fire season."