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Port Hills evacuees briefly return home

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/02/2017

The fire that raged across Christchurch's Port Hills has potential to flare up during the next two days, as temperatures and winds are expected to increase.

That's the view of the principal rural fire officer and it's why some cordons still remain in place on Sunday.

More than 200 residents from Kennedys Bush Road, Hoon Hay Valley Road and parts of Worsley Road gained temporary access to their properties on Sunday to retrieve pets and valuables and assess damage.

On Sunday afternoon three fixed-wing aircraft also re-started retardant dropping.

The aircraft drop 2,000 litres of retardant on each run, targeting the perimeter of the fire area.

This area is between already bulldozed fire breaks, and the aim is to provide a continual line of defence.

The fire is 68 per cent contained.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said it was heart-warming to see the firefighters and others on the frontlines receive a standing ovation from 400 people at a public meeting on Saturday.

"People were keen to show their absolute respect for the dedication and commitment of those working to control the fire,'' she said.

"However, that didn't deflect from the significant concerns people have had about the flow of information that would help people understand the reasons their property was inside the cordon and they had been evacuated from their homes.''

Ms Dalziel said there was a significant number of people who could not understand why other properties had had their cordons lifted but theirs had not.

Agencies say they have to balance the needs of residents to access their properties with the need to continue efforts to fight the fire, clear the ground and fell trees, conduct aerial operations and repair power lines.

A total fire ban remains in place across the Canterbury region.

Christchurch City Council has also closed popular walking and mountain biking tracks in the hills.

The fire comes as the city prepares to mark six years since it was devastated by an earthquake in which 185 people died.

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial will be unveiled on February 22 in a public event.

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