Port Hills fire: Helicopters resume aerial attack

Fourteen helicopters and three aircraft are back up in the air attacking the Port Hills fire after being grounded due to cloudy conditions on Friday morning.

Selwyn principal rural firefighter Douglas Marshall said the helicopters were grounded for safety reasons.

He said the fire is contained and the main focus will be to bolster fire breaks to further contain it, with fire retardant dropped by fix winged planes.

Firefighters had a “good night” battling the huge blaze, but evacuated residents may not be able to return home until Saturday.

About 330 firefighters fought the blaze on Thursday. Mr Marshall said it will be the same again on Friday.

“We have relief coming in from all over the country so we keep them nice and fresh,” he said.

While the rain is a welcome sight for most, Mr Marshall said it would not help dampen down some of the more “deep-rooted” fires.

“Some of the larger trees that have burnt have deep roots and we will need to dig those up in the coming weeks to make sure they are extinguished,” he said.

Overnight three “big flare-ups” on Dyers Pass Rd were contained, while over on Worsleys Rd, off Summit Rd, a couple of flare ups broke out.

More than 1000 people are still waiting to get back into their homes, but Civil Defence have said cordons are likely to remain in place until Saturday.

Fire communications shift manager Riwai Grace said the firefighters hard work coupled with “a bit of rain” has left them in a better position now than 24 hours ago.

“We noticed the rain at about 5am. We all went outside for a minute just to watch. We were like kids in a candy store,” he said.

The MetService has forecast temperatures to get up to 21 deg C on Friday, with occasional drizzle and a north-east wind which could possibly get up to 30km/h in the afternoon.

So far 11 homes and two sheds have been confirmed destroyed.

Te Hapua Welfare Centre on Halswell Rd remains open with a small amount of people staying there. Nga Hau E Wha Marae on Pages Rd and the Selwyn Welfare Centre at Tai Tapu School have been closed.

Six crews worked overnight to control flare-ups and spot fires.

Police, New Zealand Defence Force and Navy personal were patrolling around the fire and relaying information back to firefighters, Mr Grace said.

Another 31 police are due to arrive in Christchurch on Friday.

Fifteen crews from the United States Coast Guard heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star are assisting police and the New Zealand Defence Force in the evacuated areas.

The fire has burnt has through 2075ha, the equivalent of 12 Hagley Park’s, but Civil Defence controller Dave Adamson said it is controlled in that area.

The Christchurch Transport Operation Centre said there has been no changes to any road closures overnight.