Fire tragedy

A helicopter pilot, fighting a fire on the Port Hills in Christchurch, was killed yesterday when his aircraft crashed. He is greatly mourned by his family and workmates, but in spite of this accident, other helicopters are continuing to work. Because of smoke and poor visibility, flying helicopters over the fire is very dangerous but aircraft are important because there is no water on the hills. Fire trucks and water tankers are helping to fight the fire on the ground but that is not enough. Helicopters carry monsoon buckets full of water from the sea and fixed wing planes carry fire retardant chemicals.

The fire got very close to the Sign of the Kiwi building which has just been re-opened after earthquake repairs. It also got close to the chair lift on the new mountain bike Adventure Park on the Port Hills. Around midnight, the wind changed sending the fire down the hill towards Governors Bay on the Lyttelton harbour side of the Port Hills. Some people were evacuated from their homes. Many Governors Bay homes have lost their power.

The wind died down this morning which raised the hope that the fire would soon be controlled. However, at lunch time a strong nor-easterly wind meant that the fire started burning strongly again and moved down into the valleys on the Christchurch side of the Port Hills where there are many houses. More people were told to evacuate their homes. They have gone to shelter at the Halswell library or at the Pages Road marae. There is also a worry that the new Adventure Park could be badly affected.

Listen to January 7 2017 to hear more about the Adventure Park

Many people in Christchurch are out on the streets tonight looking up at the hills, watching the huge plume of black smoke.

There has been no significant rain for some time in the Christchurch area. The grass on the Port Hills is brown and very dry. On top of that, there was a strong wind yesterday and again this afternoon, which kept the fire going.

It is not known how the fire started.

Vocabulary

• visibility – how far you can see
• aircraft – planes and helicopters
• monsoon buckets – helicopters carry these buckets underneath and dip them in water, then empty them on the fire
• fixed wing planes – the wings do not move
• retardant – a chemical which helps to stop the fire
• evacuate (v)– forced to leave their homes
• die down – wind or flames get smaller
• plume – like a large feather
• significant – important






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