Port Hills family loses classic car collection, home in fire

A Christchurch family has lost almost their entire collection of classic cars in the Port Hills fire, along with their home

John Gordon says he didn't think the fire - now estimated to be 1800 hectares - would ever touch his family's Early Valley Rd home.

Before they evacuated on Monday night, shortly after the fire began, they'd thought about what they needed to do before they left.

At the time, there had been two separate fires threatening homes, but they've now merged into one.

He, wife Margaret and adult children Billy, Rosie and Jesse, grabbed a few possessions - a computer, some pencil drawings - thinking they'd come back to the place they'd lived for years.

"[We left] thinking totally 'you're going to get your house back and be in it again'. We didn't really take it seriously, to be honest."

Their main focus had turned to the 50-plus classic cars sitting on their property.

"As my family is car-oriented too, we thought well, what can we do? So we started getting our cars uphill," Mr Gordon told More FM.

He admitted that was probably a strange action to take.

"I know it's a crazy thing to do, but you don't think straight at that sort of stage," he says.

"We probably had a 25-minute window and we moved eight or nine cars, I think it was, to higher ground."

The family were able to return to their property on Tuesday, but when they came around the corner of the same road they'd driven for years, they immediately knew things were worse than they'd feared.

"I've seen this peak [of the house] all my life - and we went around the corner and it wasn't there and I thought, 'Oh my god.'

"And then we got there and it was just flat. The fire had just eaten it, literally eaten it.

"That freaked us out a bit, because you'd expect that when your house gets burned down you'd be notified by someone, and we went up there with the idea the house is going to be smoky and smelly for a wee while."

He says it was a "weird" that while most of the cars in the family's paddock had been destroyed, some had been left untouched.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has urged all residents in the area to be prepared to leave at short notice as shifting conditions can change the fire's behaviour.

She urged others to respect those who've had to evacuate - either forced or voluntary.

"There are people who are going to take stuff with them today not knowing whether they'll be able to get back to their home later on in the day."

A Givealittle page has been set up for the family.