It was a day of disruption and despair for thousands of Christchurch residents as the Port Hills' wildfires continue to blaze a path of destruction at the edge of the country's second largest city.

A state of emergency was declared and four homes were destroyed late yesterday after a wind change put southwestern suburbs in the danger zone, bringing to five the total number of homes lost since the twin wildfires in Marley Hill and Early Valley began early Monday evening.

Last night up to 1000 people had left their homes in suburbs near the Port Hills - about a third as part of compulsory evacuations.

Selwyn District Council spokesman Stephen Hill said the Marley Hill fire spread extensively down Worsley Spur, causing extensive vegetation burning in the Christchurch Adventure Park, and it was approaching the residential area of Westmoreland.

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The Early Valley Rd fire area was also extending last night.

"The fires are within an estimated 1655 hectare area - not all of this area is alight as the fire has been extinguished in some locations."

At least 10 roads were closed and authorities told people to stay away from areas where emergency crews were working. Authorities were grateful for offers of assistance and donated goods, but these were not needed at this stage.

A relief fund will be set up for those affected.

Yesterday, almost 48 hours since the fires started early on Monday evening, 15 helicopters and two aircraft were operating at three locations.

Fifteen fire crews, with 120 firefighters and support crew, were also involved in ground operations as of yesterday morning.

Civil Defence and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee announced increased defence force support including personnel and equipment, such as water tankers from Christchurch's Burnham Military Camp.

Prime Minister Bill English said fire seemed to be getting "disturbingly close" to houses.

"And you've got some reasonably significant evacuations going on."

The State of Emergency applied to both Christchurch City and Selwyn District.

David Steven Askin, known as Steve, died fighting the Port Hills fires in Christchurch. Photo / Sourced via Facebook @Steve Askin
David Steven Askin, known as Steve, died fighting the Port Hills fires in Christchurch. Photo / Sourced via Facebook @Steve Askin

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said a multi-agency response was needed.

"We need ... to draw on all the resources possible to give our residents confidence in the [response]."

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday the helicopter pilot killed when his Squirrel crashed near Sugarloaf carpark during firefighting operations on Tuesday was a decorated war hero.

David Steven Askin, known as Steve, served with the 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment in Afghanistan and was awarded the New Zealand Gallantry Star, the second-highest military honour a Kiwi soldier can receive, in 2014.

The wild fires raging through the Port Hills of Christchurch as seen from a flight. Photo / Supplied via Facebook credit: Michael Hodgson
The wild fires raging through the Port Hills of Christchurch as seen from a flight. Photo / Supplied via Facebook credit: Michael Hodgson

The 38-year-old was wounded in a five-hour grenade-and-gun battle against the Taliban and a Defence Force spokesman said Askin showed "exceptional bravery" during this and other missions, rescuing guests from the hotel as a fire broke out despite being injured.

A Givealittle page - One Great Man - set up to help Askin's family, including contributing towards his children's education, had raised $13,509 by 7.30pm last night.

Police, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission are investigating the Waimakariri man's death, with his helicopter expected to be removed today, weather and fire conditions permitting.