Emergency services were given a standing ovation on Saturday morning at a meeting in with evacuees in Christchurch after the week's blaze that tore through the Port Hills.
Fire Service incident controller Richard McNamara, covered in soot, addressed the community after having walked straight from the fire. He told the crowd it came down to saving lives over bricks and mortar.
Up to 500 people were at the meeting. Many evacuees expressed frustration there were not clear answers about when they could get home, but they have thanked emergency services for saving their lives.
One woman, who declined to be named, has booked her family in to a motel and is unsure how long to keep her booking.
At the meeting they've been told the heat in the fire-hit ground is similar to the heat from 100,000 oil heaters every metre.
There was supportive applause as Mr McNamara said he was gutted to lose helicopter pilot Steve Askin during the battle with the blaze.
He also thanked everyone for showing up to the meeting, to which an evacuated resident yelled out: "We've or nowhere else to go."
Several cordons remain in place and authorities say they need to assess the fire risk before allowing residents home.
With warmer weather forecast in the coming days there are fears of more flare-ups and re-evacuations.
The Fire Service, police and Mayor Lianne Dalziel are assuring evacuees all steps will be taken to ensure everyone is kept informed.