NZ wildfire razes 11 homes, as firefighters battle inferno

Pablo Tucker
February 17, 2017

One person has been killed and hundreds evacuated from their homes in Christchurch, New Zealand as firefighters battle an enormous fire burning across a 1,655 hectare area (4,090 acres) of Port Hills.

The council says seven houses are believed to have been damaged by the fire since yesterday, on Early Valley Road and Worsley Road.

The Christchurch Civil Defence Emergency Operations Centre has been reactivated to assist in evacuations.

Officials declared a state of emergency in the South Island city late Wednesday as two blazes, which had been smoldering for days, merged into a single giant fire-front.

Fundraising has netted more than $120,000 to help support the family of the helicopter pilot who died in a crash while fighting the Port Hills fires.

"Initially there was a response by our people to the incident, and then they were told you're not really needed any more go home go back to the station", Best said.

Two separate fires began on Monday.

"The wind could change while we are speaking and that would make a difference".

The fire began on Monday, along Early Valley Road In Lansdowne, with a second blaze on Marley's Hill in a auto park off Summit Road.

Smoke dominated the skyline in Christchurch on Monday afternoon, prompting the Canterbury District Health Board to issue health advice.

Fifteen helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and more than 200 firefighters were deployed to battle the blaze, which was described by one official as the largest scale fire he had seen in New Zealand.

He said authorities are looking at a national coordination effort to bring in more firefighting resources: "We're really struggling at the moment without the helicopters - it's too risky at night for those, we are trying to do any structure protection we can but that's got to be balanced between lives".

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