Port Hills residents allowed temporary access to homes

Port Hills residents who have not been allowed to return home, will have temporary access to their property so they can collect essential items and check on pets today.

The good news comes after frustrated locals voiced irritation at a lack of detailed information over when they'll be able to get back into their homes at a meeting of around 400 people on Saturday morning.

Fire crews made significant progress tonight in assessing fire containment lines to create a secure buffer between the fire zone and local's houses, Civil Defence said in a statement.

Residents will be permitted temporary access to the cordoned zones between 9am and 11am to retrieve essential items only.

Selwyn's Emergency Operations Centre will confirm if this managed access will go ahead at 8am, based on weather conditions and the level of risk of the fire to spread.

Access will be restricted to adult residents only and managed by police.

Civil Defence said access points will be located at 305 Kennedys Bush Rd and 51 Hoon Hay Valley Rd only.

Sign-in and compulsory briefing for Kennedys Bush Rd residents will happen at 8am for a 9am entry, whilst Hoon Hay Valley Rd residents will have to wait until 9am for a 10am entry.

Rural and urban fire crews have contained the fire around the 29 kilometre perimeter, which is now about 68 per cent controlled according to Civil Defence.

On Saturday, 20 fire crews continued to create a 20-metre fire-break with heavy machinery and by hand.

"Air operations also helped ground crew who were identifying hotpots and putting them out," Civil Defence said in a statement.

Three fixed-wing aircraft dropped about 60,000 litres of retardant today along the perimeter of the fire area, between Kennedys Bush Rd and Hoon Hay Valley Rd.

"If weather conditions remain favourable, another retardant drop will be made in the Marley's Hill area to strengthen the existing line around the Sugarloaf communications aerial," Civil Defence said.

A helicopter with monsoon bucket battles wild fires on the Port Hills. Photo / Martin HUnter
A helicopter with monsoon bucket battles wild fires on the Port Hills. Photo / Martin HUnter

Risk of flare-ups high

Fire behaviour specialist Nathan Keoghan said it is important to remember that the fire is not out, and that there could still be a few difficult days ahead.

Keoghan said the fire risk remains high and that there is still a risk of flare-ups that may ignite unburnt vegetation fuel inside the burnt area, as well as outside the containment and control lines.

"The 3mm of rain over the last 24 hours has been helpful, however more is needed to reduce the risk of flare-ups. About 50mm in one day, or 30mm over three consecutive days, is needed to cool the extreme ground temperatures and lessen the risk of unburnt fuel catching fire," said Keoghan.

He said hotspots in the fire area can be anything between 100 and 500 degrees.

"Warm temperatures forecast with windy conditions could change things very quickly. It would draw any moisture from the ground in a few hours and could result in flare-ups."
A total fire ban remains in place for the Canterbury region.

Public safety

Christchurch City Council has closed areas of the Port Hills because of the ongoing risk to public safety.

Signs will be erected on many popular walking and mountain-biking tracks in the Port Hills today to advise people of the safety issues and the closures.

These restricted zones cover all tracks and open areas in the Port Hills, including Victoria Park and the Rapaki, Mt Vernon and Huntsbury tracks.

These restrictions are likely to be in place for several weeks while fire crews extinguish the fires and deal with all safety issues.

Civil Defence confirmed Worsleys Rd remains the most at risk of fire spreading, and with a number of complex risk factors, it is unsafe to enter.

Options for access to Worsleys Rd properties will be re-assessed today.

Residents will need to register with Civil Defence to gain access to their property, if they have not already done so, either online, by calling the CCC Call Centre at 941 8999, or at the cordon entry.

- NZ Herald

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