Firefighters express empathy for stressed Port Hills residents

2:31 pm on 15 February 2024
John Joseph, who sustained damage during the 2017 Port Hills fire, at a community briefing. He says he hasn't been to his Worsley Road home since yesterday (Feb 14) and had to borrow some clothes from his son.

John Joseph, who suffered damage to his house in the 2017 Port Hills fire, was among those attending the community briefing. He says he hasn't been to his Worsleys Road home since Wednesday and has had to borrow some clothes from his son. Photo: RNZ/Adam Burns

There have been high emotions at a community meeting as officials briefed residents impacted by Christchurch's Port Hills fire.

About 100 residents turned up for the meeting at Te Hapua in the Christchurch suburb of Halswell on Thursday.

Smoke can be seen from the evacuation centre that has been set up at Halswell Library and Community Centre.

The meeting venue in Halswell. Photo: RNZ / Anna Sargent

Fire and Emergency officials have told affected residents they understood their frustration at being away from their homes and acknowledged that it was "a tough time" for them.

Assistant Commander Des Irving said the fire remained "uncontained" with crews targeting many of their resources at the summit and Kennedys Bush.

One man was critical of police for being "too officious" and said people were being "treated like criminals" at the cordon near the blaze.

Other attendees told the man his comments were unfair given the circumstances.

Irving said there were three fires in Christchurch currently.

"We've had to release some of that [resource] to support the other two fires that are going on," he said.

He was referring to a grass fire in an industrial area of Rolleston south of Christchurch and at Glentui in the Waimakariri District.

Both fires that began this morning have been contained.

For the Port Hills fire, two planes are dropping water and retardant from the air, predominantly around Kennedys Bush and the summit.

Crews are also working at Hoon Hay and Early Valley, with the situation improving for these areas, Irving said.

"That is subject to the weather conditions," he said.

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There were further concerns about stock in affected areas.

Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger warned residents not to breach the cordon after another resident got stuck and had to be rescued.

"You have these guys [Fire and Emergency] risking their life to go help you … we don't want that," he said.

Residents of 80 homes in the Early Valley, Worsley Spur, Hoon Hay Valley and Kennedys Bush have been evacuated while another 30 properties in the Selwyn District have also been evacuated.

A further 30 homes have been evacuated in Selwyn.

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