Rolleston fire: Firefighters help save Christmas for one family

The first big fire of season has scarred a small lifestyle block community near Rolleston in Canterbury.

It's burnt two homes to the ground, leaving the occupants with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Emergency services worry it could be just the start of a particularly nasty fire season. 

The Christmas ham still sitting among the ashes of the Ensor family home is evidence of just how sudden the Rolleston fire was.

On Sunday the Ensor family were coming to terms with the fact there is nothing left. The wreck of their car now sits in what used to be a garage.

Paul Ensor told Newshub how his parents, who live in the home but didn't want to be interviewed, had to flee through the blinding smoke.

"They were lucky to get out because this whole hedge just exploded basically.

"It's pretty devastating when you see all your family upset, and you've lost pretty much everything they had. Yeah, that's not good at all." 

The fire started at 3pm on Knights Rd, near Rolleston, on Saturday. It got into a hedge row, spreading into nearby properties as 80 firefighters and four helicopter crews worked to stop it. 

The laid-back lifestyle block community was thrown into mayhem, as residents did what they could to rescue their homes and animals.

"It moved very, very fast," Canterbury area fire Commander David Berry told Newshub. "We've managed to save quite a few houses though, thanks to the efforts of the firefighters, and we've had no injuries or any animals reported or anything like that." 

On Sunday, once the smoke cleared, the true extent of the damage was revealed.

A pile of tin 150 metres up the road from the Ensor property was once a home and barn.

John Wells was planning to move into his new home on Christmas Day, but instead lost everything to fire. 

"It's brand new. I hadn't even lived in it. Everything inside was all brand new - brand new carpet, furniture, the whole lot, lock, stock and barrel."

The fire service is worried this is just the start. After a wet winter, which saw a lot of grass growth, Canterbury has gone through one of its driest patches in history. Together, that's a recipe for disaster. 

For others though, it's a story of relief. Quick firefighting saved three homes on Knights Rd.

Helen Dickie lost her yard, hedge and garden but still has most of her house, telling Newshub: "The firefighters were fantastic. They put tarpaulins over the furniture. They saved all the Christmas presents from under the tree, even though they wet everything. But no, there's still an awful lot of stuff here that's still perfectly all right."

Firefighters are working hard to save Christmas, at least for some, on Knights Rd in Rolleston.