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Port Hills residents unable to go home

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/02/2017

Stranded Port Hills residents are unlikely to be given permission to return to their homes on Monday, authorities say.

Civil Defence controller John Mackie said while home access was unlikely on Monday because of the Christchurch fires, it will be reviewed again on Tuesday morning.

It comes after more than 300 residents gained temporary access to their properties on Sunday to retrieve pets and valuables and assess damage.

However, 154 properties remain closed to their owners, behind cordons set up along Kennedys Bush Road, Hoon Hay Valley Road, Summit Road and parts of Worsley Road.

Fire crews are yet to strangle the blaze in Christchurch's Port Hills and say a lot more work is needed as temperatures and winds are predicted to rise.

They have warned the week-old blaze, which has destroyed nine homes, damaged two more and scorched more than 2000 hectares, still has the potential to flare up again.

"We've got the fire under control, but we've yet to get a full stranglehold on it,'' Civil Defence incident controller Richard McNamara said on Monday morning.

Up to 150 firefighters, some from as far away as Invercargill and Palmerston North, will work on the fire in the coming week.

Ground crews have spent Monday attempting to suppress the fire, while helicopter pilots flew reduced runs to attend the funeral of colleague Steve Askin, who died battling the blaze last week.

Given the drier conditions forecast, Mr McNamara said they would be monitoring the threat of flare-ups for at least another week.

The MetService is predicting temperatures to rise to the mid to high 20s over the next few days.

Lead firefighting helicopter pilot Alan Beck says burnt out and blackened areas were giving the public something of a false impression.

"People look at everything blackened, with no smoke, and they think it's all over - it's not," Mr Beck said.

"This is one of the most dangerous fires I've worked on in my 45 years of flying."

Electricity provider Orion's crews had also replaced 32 damaged power poles and restored power to 85 homes over the weekend, with about 40 homes still cut off on Monday morning.

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