Fire crews fighting to contain Port Hills fire as weather threatens to 'whip things up again'

By Ophelia Buckleton

With temperatures expected to heat up this week, fire crews are racing against the clock to contain the Port Hills blaze and prevent any further loss of lives and homes.

There was a small glimmer of hope in the past two days as drizzle dampened the earth, however with wind and temperatures expected in the mid 20s any moisture could dry out and cause the flames to flare up again.

"It doesn't take much to whip things up again," Southern Fire Service communications shift manager Brent Dunn said, who described the drizzle as "like spitting on a BBQ".

"It's been drizzly for two days and there's still a lot going on."

Dunn said there was a small outbreak on Kennedys Bush Rd yesterday, indicating how much heat remains on Port Hills.

About six crews and 12 rural fire crews were set to return to the fire scene at 7am today, to take over from those who worked through the night to keep an eye on the situation and ensure any incidents were attended to promptly.

"These guys are doing some pretty big hours but all in all it sounds like it is going pretty well and they are being well looked after," said Dunn.

Generous members of the public have been delivering fresh baking and food to the hundreds of firefighters who have been battling to extinguish the devastating fire since it broke out on Monday.

Three cordons were moved back yesterday, allowing some Port Hills residents to return to their homes however no temporary access behind the cordon was possible as a secure buffer between the fire zone and local's houses had not been completed.

Civil Defence controller David Adamson said there were now fewer than 150 properties remaining inside cordons, which are still in place in Kennedys Bush Rd, Hoon Hay Valley Rd, Worsleys Rd and Dyers Pass Rd, Summit Rd at Gebbies Pass, and a new one on Victoria Park Rd.

Adamson said Civil Defence is working hard to allow residents temporary access today.

Tensions were felt at a residents meeting of around 400 people yesterday, as locals voiced irritation at a lack of detailed information on what's going on and when they will be allowed back onto their properties.

Residents not yet able to return home have been asked to register with Civil Defence to gain access to their property so they can collect essential items and check on pets.

But it wasn't all bad. Fire fighters got just the boost they needed when the crowd gave them a standing ovation during the meeting.

- Herald on Sunday

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