Latest on the Port Hills fire: Thermal imaging shows continued reduction in hot spots

09 Mar 2017

Helicopter thermal imaging over the fire ground this morning shows a continuing reduction in hot spots.

  • Some thermal activity is still occurring in the Adventure Park, forestry plantations and some other locations, but the majority of the fire area is now clear of hot spots.
  • Seven fire crews are continuing to work on damping down and digging out hot spots today.
  • Six North Island fire crews will complete their deployment on Friday. Control of the fire will then revert to local crews who will monitor and patrol the fire ground over the weekend. 
  • Members of the public are reminded that the fire area remains hazardous. People should stay well away from the fire ground, and observe all closures of tracks and access points.
  • Anyone observing smoke or flames in and around the fire area should immediately call 111.
  • A prohibited fire season remains in place in Christchurch and Selwyn, including a ban on stubble burning.

Port Hills fire update: Monday, March 6, 4.30pm

The fire area has been re-evaluated based on the most recent aerial imaging, which has provided a greater level of detail on the burnt area. The new estimate of the fire area is 1645 hectares with a perimeter of 51 kilometres.

Predicted rain unlikely to cause significant issues

The weather forecast shows there will be rain tomorrow and it is believed the amount predicted to fall will not cause any significant issue due to rock fall, flooding or sediment runoff. Christchurch City Council’s land drainage team is monitoring the situation and will investigate options to mitigate these risks from future heavy rainfall events and the onset of winter.

Skips and rubbish collection

People tidying up debris from the fire can make use of skips placed at No. 323, 338 (2 skips), 351 and 353 Worsleys Road. These skips are being monitored and emptied as required. At locations where there are two skips, it would be helpful if people could put green waste in one and rubbish in the other. This will reduce the cost of disposal at landfill.

This will continue until further notice.

Kerbside collections are operating as usual where collection trucks can gain access.

Restrictions on Dyers Pass Road

We are monitoring the need for restrictions on movement along Dyers Pass Road and hope to be able to further relax these soon.
Parks staff working with firefighters to restore access

Christchurch City Council Parks staff are working closely with fire management to enable wider access to park areas.

It is hoped greater access to Victoria Park and Sugarloaf may be possible soon as long as it does not interfere with ongoing firefighting and hazard reduction. Parks staff thank the public for their continued support and understanding of the limited access throughout the fire effort and look forward to seeing people enjoying the areas again shortly.

Port Hills fire update: Saturday, March 4, 2pm

Fire incident controller Rob Hands says the 35.1km perimeter is now fully contained and controlled, with bare earth or blacked-out ground for at least 50 metres on both sides of the perimeter.

Thermal imaging has indicated a substantial reduction in underground hot spots within the 1819 hectare fire area, with spots remaining in only a few  areas.

Rob Hands says fire crews will continue to work on damping down and digging out hot spots during the day, but the reduction in thermal activity means there is no need to maintain overnight monitoring patrols.

“The public can be reassured that we continue to have firefighting resources on standby and ready to respond should any flare-ups occur. If anyone does see flames or fire activity overnight, they should ring 111 immediately.”

Port Hills fire update: Friday 3 March 10am

Thermal imaging undertaken early this morning continues to show a significant decrease in hot spots across the fire area, with major reductions in many locations including the area above Dyers Pass Road, Hoon Hay Valley, and parts of Worsleys Road and Marley’s Hill.

Hot spots are still being identified in other sites, including areas of pine plantation. This pattern is likely to continue for some weeks, as it is common for hot spots to lie dormant underground.

Rural fire incident controller Rob Hands says the majority of the fire ground is looking clear of thermal activity. “We’re definitely winning the war – these results show a major reduction in hot spots from previous scans,” he says. “But there’s a lot of work still to be done and crews will remain active on the ground for some time to come, dealing with the remaining hot spots and making the area safe.”

Weather

A change from north-east to north-west conditions is forecast form late morning today, with temperatures in the high 20s and winds of 20 to 40 km/h, gusting up to 60 km/h. These conditions are expected to remain until late evening when a change towards the south is expected, with a chance of light rain or showers overnight.

The north-west conditions today mean there is a heightened risk of flare-ups occurring and spreading within the fire area.

Rob Hands says fire authorities have been planning for several days for the conditions. Additional fire crews and observers are being stationed around the fire area today to monitor and provide an immediate response to any flare-ups. Helicopters are also on standby. Additional tankers, a portable dipping dam and other water sources are in place to provide water if required.

“We hope nothing untoward occurs today, but we’re confident we have the plans and people in place ready to respond should any flare-ups or breakouts occur.

“We do continue to urge people in the area to be vigilant and to avoid any activities that might contribute to the fire risk.”

Port Hills Fire update: Thursday 2 March.

  • Dyers Pass Rd through to Governors Bay is reopening to traffic on Saturday 4 March from 6am to 7pm. 
  • The road will be closed and cordons enforced overnight. The last cars allowed up Dyers Pass Road will be at 7pm.
  • The staged opening hours of 6am to 8pm on Dyers Pass Road will continue until further advised.
  • We appreciate that there will be a lot of interest from the public wanting to view the damage to Dyers Pass Road over the weekend but we are asking that people refrain from coming up, leaving this road free for commuter traffic and fire operations crew.
  • There is no vehicle parking anywhere along Dyers Pass Road, including the carpark at Sign of the Kiwi, and no public access to either side of Summit Road from Dyers Pass Road. This area remains within the operational fire zone and as such access is restricted.
  • A temporary speed restriction of 50km/h is in place for Dyers Pass Road from Victoria Park to Sign of the Kiwi. Signage has been erected to indicate the new speed zone which will remain in place until further advised.
  • The Sign of the Kiwi café is currently closed.
  • There is no access to Victoria Park walking or cycling tracks at this time, including Harry Ell track. Tracks are barricaded as sections of these remain within the operational fire zone.
  • There is no public access to the Christchurch Adventure Park. The adventure park remains within the operational fire area and as such access is restricted.
  • Under the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 (FRFA), rural fire continue to have the power to exercise immediate road closures of Dyers Pass Road if required due to fire risk.
  • Other road closures may also be actioned if required due to other hazards flooding, rockfall, dangerous trees etc.
  • Geotechnical assessments have been carried out along Dyers Pass Road after rain this week caused some rocks to fall. Rockfall risk is low but geotechnical engineers will continue to monitor the situation.
  • View the work(external link) that Treetech has been carrying out along Dyers Pass Road removing a large number of burnt and unstable trees which were at risk of falling onto the road.
  • Contractors have also been working to repair damaged marker posts and road barriers.

Port Hills Fire Update #2: Wednesday, 1 March 4.30pm

State of Emergency ends

  • The state of local emergency covering Christchurch City and Selwyn District will expire at 6pm today.

Fire Update

  • Rural fire crews have been sent to Hanmer this afternoon to assist with the fires burning in this area. However 17 crews remain on site at the Port Hills fire perimeter, continuing to identify and extinguish hotspots. 
  • Thermal imaging from helicopters and drones continues to show a reduction in fire activity in areas where fire crews have been working to reduce hotspots. 
  • Fire crews have also been walking the fire ground area and will continue to do this. Particular focus will be forested areas where drone thermal imaging may not be fully accurate due to the tree cover. Fire crews are using hand held thermal imaging cameras to identify hotspots requiring extinguishing.

Friday weather forecast

  • In preparation for forecast warm and strong Nor’ West conditions on Friday, several portable dams will be available in case hotspots flare up and require attention. Fire crews will also be placed strategically in the fire zone.
  • Fire operations feel confident they will be able to be quickly extinguish any minor flare ups that may happen as a result of Friday’s weather conditions. Fire behaviour modelling has been undertaken to identify areas of potential fire escape. Priority areas near unburnt vegetation are being enhanced to create wider fire break buffer zones. 
  • Given the weather forecast for Friday, residents within the fire perimeter will need to continue to be on alert and ready to leave the area if needed.

Dog Parks

  • The dog exercise areas in Victoria Park and Halswell Quarry are currently closed. However there are a range of other dog parks available throughout the city that you may wish to visit.

Dyers Pass Road

  • Treetech has been busy on Dyers Pass Road today removing a large number of burnt and unstable trees which were at risk of falling onto the road.
  • Contractors are also working to repair damaged marker posts and road barriers.
  • We are prioritising work to allow the road to be reopened as soon as possible.

Port Hills Fire Update #1: Wednesday, 1 March, 11.20am

Fire Update

  • Over 99% of the fire perimeter area is now considered controlled with at least a 10 metre break between the edge of the fire zone and vegetation.
  • There are 17 rural fire crews onsite today, plus an overhead team operating out of Rolleston. Crews continue to work on the ground to target hotspots, with a focus on targeting priority areas near unburnt vegetation or structures.
  • Aerial thermal scanning is continuing to take place in the early morning to identify hotspots.
  • Civil Defence is aware of some public concern about a hotspot in the Christchurch Adventure Park and you may note fire crews monitoring this overnight. If you are concerned and see smoke or fire please contact emergency services on 111.

Upcoming weather

  • Weather conditions today and tomorrow are forecast to have moderate temperatures and moderate humidity levels and light to moderate winds. The weather forecast for Friday is for warmer temperatures, lower humidity and strong- moderate Nor’ West winds with predicted gusts of 40-60km per hour forecast.
  • Given the weather forecast for Friday, residents within the fire perimeter will need to continue to be on alert and ready to leave the area if needed.
  • Fire crews will continue their work targeting hot spots to reduce fire activity in preparation for Friday. While minor flare ups are possible due to the weather conditions, fire operations feel confident they will be able to be quickly extinguish any flare ups. Fire behaviour modelling has been undertaken to identify areas of potential fire escape. Priority areas near unburnt vegetation are being enhanced to create wider fire break buffer zones.

No-fly zone

  • The no fly zone currently in place to allow for the aerial fire response will now be in place until 12 noon on Sunday 5 March, to allow drones and aircraft to continue to assist with efforts to identify and extinguish hotspots. The no fly zone is inside the area bound by Princess Margaret Hospital, Sugarloaf, Teddington, and Tai Tapu.

Kennedys Bush Road cordon

The Kennedys Bush Road cordon has been removed allowing public access to the road. Walking and biking tracks accessed from Kennedys Bush Road remain barricaded and there is no access to these at this time as fire operations continue.

Halswell Quarry

Halswell Quarry is continuing to be used as a staging area for fire crews and currently remains closed. There is no confirmed date for its reopening.

Dyers Pass Road works

Work continues today on removing a large number of burnt and unstable trees which are at risk of falling on the road. Contractors are also working to repair damaged marker posts and barriers.

Civil Defence are prioritising the work to get the road open but some restrictions are likely to remain once the road is reopened.


Port Hills Fire Update #2: Tuesday 28 February 2pm

Huntsbury Track

The Huntsbury Track has reopened this afternoon with the cordon removed. Civil Defence ask that people continue to respect the cordons that are still in place.

More information on parks and tracks in the Port Hills.(external link)

Property access

All residents now have access to their property with the last two property owners at the top of Worsleys Road gaining access this morning.

Conservation donations

The Port Hills fires have seriously impacted the ecology of the Port Hills. Many members of the public are already offering generous donations to assist with the restoration of these important conservation areas so the Port Hills Fire Restoration Fund(external link) has been established.

This is a collaborative effort between Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, government agencies, conservation groups, and the public support will aid the recovery efforts on publicly owned conservation land and private land with important ecological values.

Water Conservation

There has been heavy demand on the water supply network as a result of the firefighting response and some damage to water pipes in the area.

Civil Defence is asking people in the Port Hills area to conserve water as much as possible over the next week while water levels in the reservoirs are restored

Port Hills Fire Update #1: Tuesday 28 February 10.15am

Fire Update

Hotspots are still being found in a number of areas, but there has been an overall reduction of these across the fire area. About 20 fire crews will be working in the Port Hills today.

99 percent of the fire perimeter is controlled with at least a 10 metre break between the edge of the fire zone and vegetation.

Welfare

A reminder that GP visits for people in affected areas will be free for the next two months. The offer period covers the two months from 13 February 2017, the day the fire started.

Civil Defence payments are available if the fires have had a serious impact on you or your family. For further assistance visit this website or call 0800 559 009.

It is normal to feel anxious or stressed during abnormal events. Talking to someone can help and online tips are available.

Dyers Pass Road

There are a large number of burnt and unstable trees which are at risk of falling on the road. Civil Defence are prioritising the work to get the road open but some restrictions are likely to remain once it is open. Treetech are currently working on the most dangerous trees.

Contractors are also working to repair damaged marker posts and barriers.


Port Hills Fire Update #3: Monday 27 February 4.45pm

Fire update

Overnight crews will continue to monitor and patrol the fire in the Port Hills. Weather permitting, drones will be flying overnight to undertake thermal imaging and to support ground crews damping down hot spots. Around 20 fire crews will be operating tomorrow.

Welfare

If you know of anyone in the affected area who hasn’t registered or you are concerned about, please encourage them to register online or through the Council’s Customer Contact Centre on 941 8999 or 0800 800 169.

Port Hills Fire Update #2: Monday 27 February 2.55pm

Fire authorities describe the 35km perimeter of the fire area as now almost fully controlled. Controlled is defined as bare earth or blacked out ground for at least 10 metres.

• Yesterday and overnight 12mm of rain fell at the top of fire area, with around 5mm recorded lower down. Fire operations incident controller Mike Grant says the rainfall has helped reduce thermal activity and surface level hot spots, but had little effect on hot spots burning underground. There has also been some rock fall overnight on Dyers Pass Road as a result of the rain.

• Active hot spots are continuing to be seen – and this is likely to continue for another week or more. Fire crews are targeting hot spots in priority areas, including any located near unburnt vegetation and residential areas.

• Geotech assessments are being undertaken today in the Early Valley Road area to check on potential rockfall hazards.

Weather

Fire incident controller Mike Grant says firefighters are closely monitoring weather forecasts but do not anticipate any adverse weather impacts in the coming days.

Forecasts for the next 48 hours show relatively stable conditions with predominantly north-easterly winds, average wind speeds up to 24 km/h, and moderate temperatures ranging from about 12 to 19 degrees. Relative humidity levels also remain high at around 60 to 70%. No significant rain is forecast.

“These conditions are relatively benign, and as long as we can avoid hot, dry, blustery north-west winds, we can be confident of making good progress with our fire suppression efforts.

“We are continually monitoring forecasts and conditions on the ground, and we have the capacity to quickly ramp up our readiness should conditions change.”

Port Hills Fire Update #1 Monday, February 27, 10.20am

We are into day 15 of fire operations and currently have 22 crews on the ground, with 150 firefighters from around New Zealand. Thermal imaging from drones is helping to identify focus areas for crews on the ground. Firefighting activity has also identified new hotspots so operations are likely to continue for several weeks.

We are aware of some public concern about a hotspot in the Christchurch Adventure Park and you may note fire crews monitoring this overnight.

Dyers Pass Road

A decision has not been made about reopening Dyers Pass Road at this point in time. There has been some rock fall on the road overnight as a result of the rain. While it was mostly smaller sized material we need to understand the scale, cause and, if necessary, put measures in place to manage any further rock fall events. Re-opening the road remains a priority for us but it is important that we have an understanding of all risks before this occurs. 


Port Hills Fire Public Update #5 Sunday 26 February – 4.50pm

Fire crews

Overnight crews will continue to monitor and patrol the fire in the Port Hills. 

Weather permitting, drones will be flying overnight to undertake thermal imaging that will support ground crews damping down hot spots.

Tomorrow, firefighters plan to focus on eliminating hotspots in priority locations including the Early Valley Road area and the Summit Road. A large number of hotspots remain.

Dyers Pass Road cordons

Completing the work needed to reopen Dyers Pass Road is a top priority, as we recognise the significance of this key access route. It is still too early to say when the road will reopen but good progress is being made and there will be more updates tomorrow.

The condition of the road is good overall and edge markers were being replaced this afternoon. A geotechnical assessment of scattered rocks above the road has been completed. The remaining damage to guard rails and trees will be addressed tomorrow. We also expect the power cables will be checked and temporary speed limit signs installed.

Water conservation

We’re still asking people in the Port Hills area to continue to conserve water as much as possible over the next week while water levels in the reservoirs are restored. While today’s rain is helpful, there has been heavy demand on the water supply network from the firefighting response and some damage to water pipes in the area. 

Next update

Unless there is a significant development overnight this will be the last update until tomorrow morning at 9am.

Overnight crews will continue to monitor and patrol the fire in the Port Hills, both on the ground and in the air.

Port Hills Fire Public Update #4 Sunday 26 February – 3.20pm

Dyers Pass Road cordons

The team reviewing the condition of Dyers Pass Road this afternoon has reported back.

The condition of the road is good overall but almost all posts and guard rails have melted or been burnt and will need repairing or replacing. One power pole is damaged and some trees need removing. A geotechnical assessment of scattered rocks above the road is also needed.

We plan to complete this work as rapidly as possible, as reopening this key route is a high priority. We are getting a lot of queries about when Dyers Pass Road will open to the public and recognise the significance of this road. We will update you if the cordon situation changes.

Other cordons

There are 11 cordons in total. While cordons at Worsleys Road, Kennedys Bush Road, Hoon Hay Valley Road and Dyers Pass Road have been relaxed, this is for residents only. There is still no access for members of the public. Access for tradespeople to repair damaged houses is being arranged.

Current map of hotspots from the Port Hills fires Cordons are also being maintained at the entrance to Halswell Quarry during air operations to ensure public safety.

We are reminding people to resist the temptation to come and have a look around the area, this includes mountain bikers and runners. The area remains an operational fire zone with cordons still in place. Fire behaviour modelling indicates the chance of another outbreak is low but if it did happen, significant damage could still occur.

Fire crews 

A current priority for fire authorities is detailed mapping of unburnt vegetation within the perimeter of the fire. This 

will help fire crews to strengthen fire breaks around these areas and reduce the risk of new outbreaks. View the latest map of hotspots here [JPG, 1 MB]

A total of 25 fire crews from all over the country are working today, with about 150 firefighters on the ground. 

Port Hills Fire Public Update #3 Sunday 26 February – 1.50pm

Dyers Pass Road Cordons

A team is out the field this afternoon reviewing the Dyers Pass Road cordons, as reopening this key route is a high priority. We are getting a lot of queries about when Dyers Pass Road will open to the public and recognise the significance of this road. We will update you if the cordon situation changes.

At this stage three hard cordons remain on Dyers Pass Road. One is at the bottom where it meets Governors Bay Road, however residents who live on the section up to the hairpin bend about halfway up to the Sign of the Kiwi are permitted access to their properties. Dyers Pass Road is closed from this hairpin bend to the entrance of Victoria Park due to the fire risk and safety issues.

Other cordons

There are 11 cordons in total. While cordons at Worsleys Road, Kennedys Bush Road, Hoon Hay Valley Road and Dyers Pass Road have been relaxed, this is for residents only. There is still no access for members of the public. Access for tradespeople to repair damaged houses is being arranged.

Cordons are also being maintained at the entrance to Halswell Quarry during air operations to ensure public safety. 

We are reminding people to resist the temptation to come and have a look around the area, this includes mountain bikers and runners. The area remains an operational fire zone with cordons still in place. 

Fire behaviour modelling indicates the chance of another outbreak is low but if it did happen, significant damage could still occur. 

Fire crews 

A total of 25 fire crews, with around 150 firefighters on the ground.

An infrared scan from the air this morning showed continuing deep-seated activity across the area. There is a continuing overall reduction in hot spots – but we are still seeing a number of areas where hot spots remain. The crews are focusing on these. Drones are being used during nightshifts and early mornings for this thermal imaging. 

Heavy machinery is now being used for the ongoing removal of dangerous trees.

Weather

High humidity and lower temperatures are helping with suppressing the fire, and the today’s rain is welcome. 

Port Hills Fire Public Update #2 Sunday 26 February – 11.40am

Fire prevention tips

The National Rural Fire Authority has some great tips(external link) on how to assess hazards in your home and garden and prevent and prepare for fire.

More detailed information is also available in the Firesmart Home Owner’s Manual. (external link)

Water Conservation

There has been heavy demand on the water supply network as a result of the firefighting response and some damage to water pipes in the area.

We’re asking people in the Port Hills area to conserve water as much as possible over the next week while water levels in the reservoirs are restored.

Fire crews

A total of 25 fire crews, with around 150 firefighters, are continuing firefighting operations. New crews are operating over the weekend as others are rested. Crews have come from West Coast, Otago, Nelson, Rotorua, Southland, Taranaki, Auckland, Kaipara and Palmerston North to join their Canterbury counterparts.

Cordons

  • We are getting a lot of queries about when Dyers Pass Road will reopen to the public. We are constantly reviewing the cordons, in particularly Dyers Pass Road as we recognise the significance of this road as key arterial route. We will update you if the cordon situation changes.
  • At this stage three hard cordons remain on Dyers Pass Road. One is at the bottom where it meets Governors Bay Road, however residents who live on the section up to the hairpin bend about halfway up to the Sign of the Kiwi are permitted access to their properties. Dyers Pass Road is closed from this hairpin bend to the entrance of Victoria Park due to the fire risk and safety issues, preparations are underway to have the road open as soon as possible, after the risk mitigation work is completed.
  • While cordons at Worsleys Road, Kennedys Bush Road, Hoon Hay Valley Road and Dyers Pass Road have been relaxed, this is for residents only.