Port Hills fire: 'Relief', 'gratitude' as residents head home

7:32 am on 17 February 2024
A view of the Port Hills fire early on Saturday 17 February, taken from the Hon Hay Valley Rd cordon.

A view of the Port Hills on Saturday from the Hoon Hay Rd cordon. Photo: RNZ / Caleb Fotheringham

A Port Hills resident whose home was destroyed in the 2017 fires says it is a massive relief to be able to return home this time.

Fire and Emergency announced on Friday night all residents who had to leave their homes because of the blaze on the hills could return.

However, people have been have warned they need to stay on alert in case they have to move out again suddenly.

Good progress had been made on the fire that broke out on Wednesday afternoon, but it was still not 100 percent contained, FENZ said.

After two nights away from home, Vikki Pflaum said it felt "absolutely amazing" to be back.

"Relieved is the word. Just relieved. It's just such a different outcome for us than last time."

Pflaum's house was destroyed in the 2017 blaze and she had moved back into her new house on Worsleys Rd just five weeks ago when she and her husband, Doug, were forced to evacuate again.

"I was a bit numb this time because I think everything was so déjà vu for me. I didn't actually think to pack clothes this time... when we got the call, the police came to the door to say evacuate, I just sort of went to pieces a bit then, but then I said just let me get my photo albums, and the police were really lovely," she said.

Pflaum said the fire was about half a kilometre from her property.

She said on her return to the property she could see black, charred land out of her window where there used to be trees.

"I can see where it's all black, we've still got helicopters flying over and dealing with it up the back at the moment... there's a few charred sticks there," she told RNZ on Friday.

View from Vikki Pflaum's house of Port Hill fire day 3

Charred land is visible from Vikki Pflaum's house about half a kilometre away from the fire. Photo: Supplied / Vikki Pflaum

Another resident, Gary Dellow, was feeling a lot of relief and gratitude.

"I think at the end of the day it's really great to have a home to come home to," he said.

"What I feel overwhelmingly is gratitude to everyone who worked hard to save our home."

The 650 hectare fire is yet to be fully contained and Emergency Management Minister Mark Mitchell said it would take weeks to get it completely out.

FENZ incident controller Dave Stackhouse said a good weather window was keeping firefighters hopeful about containing most of the blaze over the weekend.

"We have favourable conditions until the north-westerly comes in on Sunday, so we're going to make the most of it by getting as much of this fire knocked down over the next two days as possible," he said.

"What this means is we'll have a lot of trucks and crews moving around the roads and tracks of the Port Hills, so we really need people to stay away from the area this weekend so our operations aren't impeded."

At the height of the fire, about 110 households had to leave, and a container home has been destroyed.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

The Worsleys Road cordon for the Port Hills fire early on Saturday morning, 17 February 2024.

The cordon on Worsleys Road in Christchurch on day four of the Port hills fire. Photo: RNZ / Caleb Fotheringham

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