One year anniversary for Christchurch's Port Hills fires

Tuesday marks one year since the devastating Port Hills fires broke out, claiming one life and burning through more than 1600 hectares. 

The fires broke out in Early Valley and Marley's Hill on Christchurch's outskirts on February 13 last year, before merging into one fire that took 66 days to fully extinguish.

Decorated SAS solider and pilot Steve Askin was killed fighting the blaze. He was the only causality from the fire.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) rural regional manager Richard McNamara says fires of such scale and complexity are likely to become more commonplace.

"It's our responsibility to do our upmost to protect people's lives, the lives of our firefighters and our responders, including our pilots."

Mr McNamara says his thoughts are with Mr Askin's family.

"We grieve for Steve and his family. We have not forgotten him, he was part of the firefighting community and we think about him often.

"Previously, we've dealt with fires bigger than the Port Hills, but they've been in more remote places, so we've been able to get on top of them, without having to think about the risk to life and property. But now, with more urban development in rural areas, that risk is greater.

"The climate is changing, that's a fact. We are getting more extreme weather, and it means bigger storms, heavier rainfall and prolonged droughts, which of course means a greater fire risk and more fires. We've certainly seen that this summer."

Mr McNamara says it's important people know there is a greater risk of fires in the future, so they can be prepared.

In January, FENZ finished its investigation into the cause of the fire, which concluded the cause was undetermined.

The Port Hills fires:

  • The fire lasted from February 13 to April 20, taking 66 days to be declared fully extinguished.
  • Tragically, the fire claimed one life - helicopter pilot and decorated soldier Steve Askin.
  • There were no other serious physical injuries to firefighters or residents.
  • Originally two fires started in Early Valley Rd and Marley's Hill, but they merged to become one inferno.
  • It ravaged 1661 hectares of land, the equivalent of 1600 rugby fields.
  • At its peak, the fire burned 100,000 kilowatts of energy, the equivalent of up to four atom bombs.
  • More than 300 firefighters from across the South Island, including two crews from Dunedin, responded.
  • Between February 13 and February 17,more than 900 calls came in to 111, most of which were Port Hills related.
  • Fourteen helicopters, and more than 100 appliances and water tankers were deployed.
  • Nine homes were lost and five others suffered damage.