The cause of a devastating fire in Christchurch’s Port Hills has been confirmed as suspicious by investigators.
The blaze started as two separate fires on February 13, one of which was at Marley’s Hill.
The fire tore through 2000ha of forestry and scrub land, destroying 11 homes in the process.
While the investigation into the origin of the Marley’s Hill blaze is still being finalised, police yesterday confirmed the cause was suspicious.
They are still seeking any information from the public and say the criminal investigation into the fires is very complex.
An inquiry into the second blaze is also continuing and expected to take at least a couple more months, Fire and Emergency New Zealand director Leigh Deuchars said.
The fire raged for days, sending pillars of smoke across Christchurch.
It smouldered for weeks afterwards, only being officially declared extinguished 66 days after it first started.
Helicopter pilot David Steven Askin, 38, died after crashing while battling the blaze.
Port Hills locals are furious and want anyone found responsible to be punished, RNZ reported.
Early estimates show nearly
$8 million was spent putting the fires out.
Police said yesterday evidence from the Marley’s Hill fire showed it was deliberate.
Detective Inspector Greg Murton said the cause and origin of the fire was not yet certain but it was clear a criminal investigation was required.
“Whoever set this fire, I feel like (they need) to be sorted,” Janice Thornton, co-owner of the Sign of the Kiwi cafe on the Port Hills, said.
“It’s caused so much devastation with so many people, and disruption.
“I believe somehow it will sort itself out and in another year or so and we’ll hopefully be back on track. But you can’t bring back the life of the poor pilot and the destruction caused.”
Rory Creagh, who was evacuated from his home on Kennedy’s Bush Road for six days, said the chances of two large fires breaking out so close to one another in quick succession had raised eyebrows.
“But from my perspective, it doesn’t actually change for me the way in which the whole event was handled and the aftermath with regard to accountability, responsibility, communication.
“I don’t think they’ve answered any of those questions,” Mr Creagh said. NZN