Bushfire in New Zealand Destroys 11 Houses, Prompts Evacuation of Over 1,000

Bushfire in New Zealand Destroys 11 Houses, Prompts Evacuation of Over 1,000

The cause of the fire was not yet known and authorities were investigating.

A former special forces soldier who featured in a controversial photograph after a gun battle in Afghanistan has been killed in a helicopter crash while fighting bushfires in his native New Zealand.

More than 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes, 11 properties were destroyed and a state of emergency was declared.

The fire has been burning in Christchurch's Port Hills since Monday.

Initial reports suggested up to 40 homes had been lost but the Civil Defence later revised the number down after they received a correction from police.

Askin was dumping water on the blaze when his helicopter went down and he died at the scene.

"If suddenly the firefighters roared up a driveway they can very quickly find themselves trapped with no means of escape and that's not good because it means they're putting themselves at risk and they're in danger of being hurt", he says.

Prime Minister Bill English took a helicopter flight over the disaster zone and said the blazes may have been deliberately lit.

Paul Askin, the man's father, said: "H just enjoyed life to the full, he said life is far too short and you've got to live it and he did".

Significant rain is not expected until Saturday, but there are hopes that a predicted change in wind direction on Friday will slow the progress of the fire.

Speaking during a visit to Christchurch, Mr English said he had been told the situation was "contained but not controlled".

Local Mayor Sam Broughton said changing winds had made the fire unpredictable, especially so as the region had been unusually dry for past three years.

He told journalists he had confidence in the performance of the firefighters dealing with the blaze and said the fires look "suspicious".