He watched his house burn as Christchurch fires get out of control

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"It looks as if up to seven properties have been affected by the fire, it's hard to say until light arrives to get a full handle on how many properties that have been destroyed".

Civil Defence said the fire was largely contained but not yet controlled.

A helicopter pilot who was a decorated soldier died in a crash while fighting the blaze earlier this week.

The Christchurch City Council said police had ordered the evacuation of 400 homes while many others nearby were choosing to leave. The cause of the second fire, which seemed to begin in a carpark, was unknown on Thursday.

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The fire began on Monday, along Early Valley Road In Lansdowne, with a second blaze on Marley's Hill in a vehicle park off Summit Road. Officials closed at least three schools.

Christchurch City and adjacent Selwyn District declared a state of emergency Wednesday.

He said the region had been unusually dry for the past three years and the grass in the hills had turned brown over the summer.

"Police and New Zealand Defence personnel are now evacuating homes in the Kennedys Bush, Cashmere and Hoon Hay Valley roads as well as homes from the Sign of the Takahe to Victoria Park", a Christchurch Civil Defence spokesperson said. With a thick pall of smoke hanging over Christchurch, residents with respiratory ailments were advised to stay indoors.

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He agreed that was true, but said doing so required full knowledge of the scene, and there are structures in place for those with that information to make the decision that need to be fixed in future.

Image Caption: There are hopes a weather change later this week will help firefighters.

"I can't believe it's just caught on fire after it survived the night".

Some 200 firefighters were operating about 45 pumps and tankers on the ground, with police and the military also providing additional personnel to the emergency response.

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Steve Askin's family have been flooded with donations following the helicopter pilot and war hero's tragic death on Tuesday.

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