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PM thanks 'heroes' battling Port Hills fire on ChCh quake anniversary

Author
Rachel Maher and Pierre Nixon,
Publish Date
Thu, 22 Feb 2024, 11:33AM

PM thanks 'heroes' battling Port Hills fire on ChCh quake anniversary

Author
Rachel Maher and Pierre Nixon,
Publish Date
Thu, 22 Feb 2024, 11:33AM

Christopher Luxon has thanked the “heroes” battling Christchurch’s Port Hills fire - many of whom were also first on the scene 13 years ago when an earthquake devastated the city.

The Prime Minister has today visited the fire ground to get a first-hand look at the damage and ongoing work to dampen hotspots.

He said it was a real privilege to be in Christchurch, especially on the 13th anniversary of the 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people.

Luxon acknowledged the work of firefighters battling the Port Hills blaze, saying “the response to the fire has been fantastic”.

“We have seen the best of New Zealand here over the last week.”

He said the community should be incredibly proud of those involved with tackling the fire, many of whom were also on the scene in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

“I think we have had some real heroes. The response has been truly world class.”

He made special mention of local Banks Peninsula MP Dr Vanessa Weenink who was involved in helping people injured in the PGC building collapse during the 2011 earthquake.

Luxon said an investigation into the fire response would be opened in the near future.

“The nature of things like this is taking insights from this and learning about what we can do better in the future,” Luxon said.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon visits the Port Hills fire grounds on Thursday morning. Photo / George HeardPrime Minister Christopher Luxon visits the Port Hills fire grounds on Thursday morning. Photo / George Heard

The cause of the blaze is still being investigated, with police speaking to two people seen walking in the area on Wednesday afternoon last week.

Last night Christchurch and the Selwyn district transitioned from a state of emergency to a “recovery phase”, as firefighting efforts continue to dampen 20 existing hotspots.

More than 100 houses were evacuated and a container home was burnt out, after the fire covered more than 650ha.

Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) said firefighters will be working to extinguish 20 hotspots on the ground today.

Drones have discovered 20 hot spots to be dampened by fire crews today as the Prime Minister visits the fire ground.Drones have discovered 20 hot spots to be dampened by fire crews today as the Prime Minister visits the fire ground. 

“Drone crews have identified the hotspots overnight, with 11 crews now tasked with eliminating them today,” Fenz said. 

“A total of 36 personnel, including Incident Management Team staff, will be working at the fire today.” 

Drones would be used to find hotspots again overnight. 

The Herald earlier revealed residents near Hoon Hay Valley Rd saw two people around a walking track on the hill followed by smoke. 

The pair then drove off, with residents taking photos of the car and sending them to the police. 

A police spokesperson confirmed to the Herald that police had spoken to those people, as well as the ones in the car. 

Police are continuing to investigate after they spoke with two people seen on a walking track moments before the Port Hills fire was noticed. Photo / George HeardPolice are continuing to investigate after they spoke with two people seen on a walking track moments before the Port Hills fire was noticed. Photo / George Heard 

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