Over 100 residents of Governors Bay in Christchurch have been evacuated overnight as flames from a nearby wildfire threatened to encroach the suburb.
Similarly residents and visitors have been urged to remain clear of Christchurch’s hill tracks as the smoke from the Port Hills wildfires hang heavy in the air.
The fires began after a small fire sparked in a car park at Marleys Hill at around 7pm on Monday and spread west overnight. Following the wildfire, a second, much larger fire started on the same night, but had until Wednesday, remained contained.
After a wind change on Wednesday night flames started rapidly spreading and residents from the Allandale area near Governors Bay were evacuated.
The Selwyn District Council said that 15 helicopters and two aircraft had been dispatched to the area above Governors Bay, Marleys Hill and Early Valley, where flames have been largely controlled but hotspots are continuing to burn.
All Blacks legend, Richie McCaw, is also doing his bit to help, joining the Christchurch Helicopters dispatch and taking firefighters around the fire in one of the company’s smaller helicopters.
It is expected that firefighters and aircraft operators will be needed for the next two to three days.
Unfortunately, a helicopter pilot braving the large fires, was killed after his helicopter crashed over Christchurch’s Port Hills.
The pilot was David Steven Askin, known as Steve and was a decorated war hero who had been working with Way To Go Heliservices’ when he crashed near Sugarloaf on Tuesday afternoon.
Investigations by police and the Civil Aviation Authority are currently underway.
A St John spokesman spoke about the tragedy, extending their condolences to the colleagues and family of the deceased.
“Those involved in fighting fire on the ground and in the air make a huge contribution to keeping our community safe, often at considerable risk.”
Meanwhile in Australia…
Meanwhile, in Australia, firefighters have been kept busy over the past week with bushfires raging across NSW.
In the small town of Dunedoo in NSW, most of the small community of Uarbry has been wiped out. Residents told the ABC that nine of the dozen homes in the community were destroyed when the fire came through on Sunday.
Paul Denovian was responsible for supplying water to fire crews on the ground. He said that the conditions were the worst he had experienced in his 25 years of fighting fires, “You couldn’t walk forward, it’d near blow you backwards, the wind,” he said.
As well as damages to property, reports continue to come in about losses of stock. Farmer Warren Jarvis from the central west town of Cassilis told Fairfax Media that he had lost everything. “My house and all my property is totally gone,” he said. “Feed, three greyhounds, other cats, all my chooks, sheep and cattle…”
Further north, reports have also come in that homes have been lost in a fire burning on the mid-north coast near the town of Port Macquarie. The fire is burning out of control and has so far taken out 700 hectares in the Pappinbarra region.
The Rural Fire Service (RFS) has confirmed that there are still dozens of bush or grassfires burning across the state. The NSW RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons said that large areas of the state are classified under catastrophic fire conditions. “The only safest option in catastrophic regions is not to be in bushfire prone areas,” he said. “That’s why leaving early is the safest option.”
Firefighters experienced some relief yesterday, with NSW experiencing a cool change for much of the state.
Residents are still advised to have a bushfire plan ready and to monitor updates via the NSW RFS page http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/
Climate Change Scientists Frustrated
Leading scientists from Australia and New Zealand joined forces in Canberra for a four-day conference last week to discuss the theme of “Australasian weather, climate and oceans: past, present and future”.
The group met to discuss the impact of climate change and how scientists are experiencing frustrating and repetitive “climate fatigue”.
According to Dr Andrew Gilkson, from the Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology, the scientific community is increasingly fed up with the lack of positive movement around the very real issue of climate change.
“There were hundreds of scientists there, and my impression is while we continue to do the science as best we can, there is a fatigue when it comes to arguing in public.
“It’s definitely a concern. There are people who don’t think in scientific terms and don’t want to accept the basic laws of nature, or have some vested interest.”
“you can explain to them as long as you like but if they don’t wish to understand, they won’t.”