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Port Hills Update #15

The Port Hills fire has been contained within a 24km perimeter and firefighters are making strenuous efforts to strengthen containment lines before the onset of strong winds that are forecast to develop tomorrow afternoon.

Fire and Emergency Incident Controller Steve Kennedy says efforts are focused on reinforcing the "blacked out" containment lines to at least 50 metres wide to ensure they have no hotspots or unburnt vegetation within them. Crews are also locating and extinguishing hotspots that could flare up in strong winds and cause a larger fire to reignite.

Sixteen crews have been on the fireground today supported by heavy machinery, with up to seven helicopters making targeted water drops on hotspots identified by the firefighters. Many of the hotspots are in old forestry skid sites, where the fire is deep seated.

Steve Kennedy says fresh crews will arrive at the fireground this evening to continue working through the night, and firefighting is expected to continue around the clock for several days.

Port Hills residents will notice drone activity over the fireground tonight, as Fire and Emergency’s specialist drone team will be using thermal cameras to pinpoint the location of more hotspots. And at first light a helicopter with thermal imaging will fly around the whole 24km perimeter of the fireground. The results of the aerial surveys will help direct tomorrow’s activities.

As Fire and Emergency prepares to launch its night drone operation, Steve Kennedy is reminding people who have their own drones not to fly them anywhere near the Port Hills.

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The airspace over the fireground has been closed to all aircraft except those involved in the response to the fire. When private drones are reported in the vicinity of a fire, all firefighting aircraft are ordered to land immediately, for the safety of the pilots and crew, and everyone on the ground below.

With the fire now in its fourth day, Steve Kennedy has thanked Christchurch people for their support of the firefighting operation on the Port Hills. "I know this area well, it’s home to a great community and playground for so many people. We really appreciate the way people are choosing to stay away and give our firefighters and vehicles space to operate safely without having to worry about encountering members of the public on the hill."

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