Port Hills residents focus on improving firebreaks as fire still going

6:03 pm on 18 February 2024
Port Hills resident Ike Houghton was evacuated from his Worsleys Road home.

Ike Houghton was evacuated from his Worsleys Road home. Photo: RNZ / Adam Burns

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Ike Houghton's property burnt down in the 2017 Port Hills fire. That is not the case.

A Worsleys Road resident says there will be a community meeting next week about building resilience to fires on the Port Hills.

The large blaze is still burning in Christchurch and firefighters are working around the clock to extinguish it.

Ike Houghton had to be evacuated from his replacement property this time.

He is back at home now but said a group of property owners would meet to discuss how to protect their houses in the future.

Houghton said they want to improve firebreaks, meaning areas cleared of vegetation aimed at preventing fire from spreading, and have them be regularly maintained.

"... compared to the cost of [maintaining a firebreak] once a year, compared to the millions in having insurance companies pay out for homes that are lost or taking away emergency services from their normal day to day stuff and tying them up on the hills when there's a lot of other work that needs to be dealt with."

Houghton said he did not mind contributing to any resilience measures to ensure his house was kept safe.

Firefighters continue their efforts on Saturday as they work to dampen down remaining hot spots and create a buffer zone around the 24km perimeter fire ground in Christchurch's Port Hills.

Firefighters seen on Saturday dampening down hot spots in Christchurch's Port Hills. Photo: CHRIS SKELTON

Fire and Emergency incident controller Steve Kennedy told media on Sunday that there were fire precautions on the Port Hills.

"There are firebreaks around the hills and up through the forestry up there as well".

But he said it depended on the fire and the speed of the wind as to how effective those protections were.

"You'd think the Summit Road is a pretty good firebreak, but it jumped across that so once we get the hot embers up in the air, they're going to land somewhere. If they land somewhere dry, then it's going to start spot fires ahead of the fire."

Kennedy said some residents on Worsleys Road were already well set up to defend their properties against fires with sprinkler systems.

"If the property is wet and it's green then we're not going to get any ground spread of the fire, it's not going to stop the embers from getting into dry grass and wind blowing debris up in the gutters. So that's another factor, they've got to keep their gutters clean as well."

He said further precautions would possibly be looked at after the fire was extinguished.

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