Massive wild fires whipping through the Port Hills have caused a state of emergency in Christchurch and Selwyn, and forced nearby residents from their homes.

All they can do now is watch and wait and hope that they will have homes to return to when the monster fire is finally under control.

Small groups of anxious residents are allowed through the police cordon at Kennedys Bush Rd to check on their properties. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Small groups of anxious residents are allowed through the police cordon at Kennedys Bush Rd to check on their properties. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Some have already had devastating news.

These are their stories.


James Frost

Tragedy has struck twice for James Frost, who lost his home in the 2011 earthquake and now he's watched his home burn down in the Port Hills blaze.

"I'm still in a bit of shock at the moment. Today's just about getting round as close as I can to it to really get my own closure and actually see it."

He fled his home with nothing but his cat, dog and the clothes on his back. Another resident has offered him a place to stay for a week while he figures out where to go.

Poultney family

They stand huddled together on Bengal Drive, their faces drawn and their eyes fixed on a house across the valley.

The white wooden house in the pines of the Port Hills stands out amid the charred landscape, waves of smoke rolling across and often obstructing it from view.

It's been their home for more than 20 years and the Poultney family may be about to watch it burn to the ground.


And, there is nothing - at all - they can do to stop it.

"It's about as bad as it can be," Grant Poultney told the Herald.

"Apart from someone telling you a close family member has died, it's about as bad as things can get."

Poultney and his wife fled the house when they spotted flames over the back fence yesterday.

He'd been monitoring the fire all day and thought his place on Worseley Rd would be safe and then the wind changed.

Last night he stood on Bengal Drive with his neighbour Ken Reese and the pair watched as the flames got bigger and the smoke thicker.

"I couldn't even see my house, I had convinced myself that it hadn't survived the fire, I saw flames going across and I just had to assume the worst," he said.

Alistair Hodson

Alistair Hodson lives on Longhurst Tce in Cashmere Hills. He heard a police officer using a loudspeaker early this morning telling residents to evacuate. He left for a welfare centre at Halswell library.

"We packed up and ended up here at 2 o'clock. We've got two dogs in the car, don't know how they slept. I slept in the accommodation here, and I slept surprisingly well, so I must've been a bit tired."

He said the fire wasn't close to his house, but he could see it blazing from nearby Victoria Park Rd.

He said it was "quite frightening".

"I've never seen anything like it in my life, and I've lived up there for 16 years, so it's quite incredible that Christchurch is dealing with this at the moment.

"I love my little house up there."

He was worried about losing his house, but thought a changing wind might be his "saving grace".

"It's a bit surreal really."

Sir Miles Warren

As fire spread down the hills above his beloved historic Ohinetahi homestead and gardens, Sir Miles Warren wasn't going anywhere.

About 107 residents on the other side of Governors Bay, in Teddington Rd, were evacuated at 3am today.

The order hadn't extended to the homestead and gardens, but if the call had come, Sir Miles said he would not have heeded it.

If the house was to go down, he would "go down with it", he said.

"My plan was to either run to the sea or jump in my pool."

Sir Miles Warren.
Sir Miles Warren.

Yesterday morning he was in the garden at the Ohinetahi homestead, where the plants were coated in falling ash from the fires burning just 300-400m away.

The homestead, a category one heritage building, was built in the 1860s and some of the roses in the garden were planted in the 1870s. Sir Miles, a prominent architect, has lived there for 41 years, having restored the homestead and developed an extensive, award-winning garden.

He restored the house and designed and created the gardens with his sister, artist Pauline Trengrove. He gifted the property in 2012 to be kept in a trust for the public.

"If this place was to burn, I would just lose my life's work," he said.

When he went to bed at 10pm on Tuesday, it had looked like there was just a small fire at the top of the hill, but by the morning he estimated the flames had moved to within 400m of the property.

"I thought all was well, so I went to bed and slept easy," he said.

But when he woke, the fire had reached his neighbour's sheds and he could see smoke rising through the trees.

"It's just quite spooky to see the smoke rising up around my property."

Sir Miles wanted to thank firefighters and helicopter pilots for their efforts.

Fay and Bob Powell

Fay and Bob Powell.
Fay and Bob Powell.

Fay and Bob Powell returned to their home on Kiteroa Place and noticed the fire had crept a lot closer to where they lived.

Bob Powell said he watered the grass outside his property to make sure it wasn't too dry before going to sleep.

"We got to bed about midnight, and at 5 o'clock this morning the police were rapping on the door and managed to wake us up, and they said 'you've got 15 minutes to get out', so we departed."

Fay Powell said they didn't have trouble sleeping, but they had made precautions to ensure they were prepared if they needed to evacuate.

"I was tired, but we were warned to have something ready, so I actually collected all my photos, packed our bags, all the bits and pieces that we felt were necessary."

They had been offered a place to stay until they could return home.

"We don't know if we were going to be another evening out. We just don't know at this stage when we'll be allowed back. We're expecting a granddaughter to arrive from Australia in two days as well."

Bob Powell said the prospect of losing their home "wouldn't be nice".

"We've been in there for 35, 36 years, but you don't cry over anything that can't cry over you."

Chas Muir

Chas Muir. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Chas Muir. Photo / Kurt Bayer

, 65, was evacuated from his Harry Ell Drive home near the Sign of the Takahe about 9pm.

"From the Sign of the Takahe you could see it was really close, stretching right down the gully, to the new Adventure Park and to Kennedys Bush, you could see it go on for miles," Muir said.

"And the flames ... you've never seen anything like it."

His home was damaged in the 2010/11 earthquakes and he is still involved in an ongoing insurance battle.

The first thing he saved last night was his papers, his "evidence" to support his claim.

Muir spent the night with friends in Christchurch. MP Ruth Dyson even offered him a place to stay.

"It's the Christchurch way. We've been through so much in recent years, we all look after each other."

Roger Beattie

Early Valley Rd resident Roger Beattie said he and his neighbour have been digging their own fire breaks.

"And they should have been back-burning. They should have hit the panic button ages ago. This was entirely predictable that the wind would change from northwest to northeast and then cause havoc."

But the Fire Service said the Port Hills fire is one of the strongest and fastest it's seen in the past decade.