Nearly six years ago our city was hit by an earthquake which pretty much divided Christchurch into Business-As-Usual on the west side and, out east where the Homestead is situated, the Badlands. Without electricity, our world shrunk to a block either side of the Homestead front gates and whatever was being talked about round the water truck. Each day we brought the newspaper but most of us didn’t read them; after all, we were living it and that was taking all our energy. Sometimes folk would ring from the other side of town to check on us (we had an old fashioned, plug in phone that still worked) and we’d marvel at how normal their lives were. They were watching TV and going out for coffee, shopping and visiting and the like, while we were our washing clothes in a plastic basin of water warmed on the barbecue and trying to ingest the ten kilo of apricots we’d packed into the rapidly defrosting freezer only weeks earlier.


Then last week we suddenly found ourselves with the shoe on the other foot. As we tended the animals, watered the garden and pottered down to Brighton to check out our revamped library – moving through our everyday normality – across town, people’s lives were being changed forever.

Fires were raging on the Port Hills; in the valleys and on the tracks, in Victoria Park and along the Summit Road – all those places Christchurch goes to play in the weekend. It lapped at the top of the new Christchurch Adventure Park and around the iconic Sign of the Kiwi Cafe that had only, a couple of weeks earlier, re-opened after a rebuild as a result of ‘quake damage. Many, many people drove away from their houses not knowing whether they would see them again. Some of them won’t.

From the Homestead we could see helicoptors buzzing like little flies, white glowing dots against the smoke, with those little, tiny buckets dangling beneath. That one of them crashed, killing the pilot, is still hard to comprehend. 

And through it all, social media was also ablaze. Photos of hellish flames and billowing smoke were everywhere, as was speculation and gossip. Newspapers trawled facebook and the likes and reported that chatter as news. How does this happen? Why do we allow it?

Now, as I write this, the flames have disappeared so the stream of dramatic photos has dried up but the State of Emergency remains and many, many people are working to keep the hot-spots contained.

Now we know how those people on the other side of town felt six year ago. We feel powerless, ineffectual, and useless – and so, so sorry. 

Kia Kaha, Christchurch.



17 thoughts on “Fire

  1. Glad to hear that you are all ok. My thoughts are with your poor city again. Although the amount of news we saw here in the UK was limited, there were dramatic pictures of flames and devastation. Of course, now there will be months and months of suffering for those affected and the media will totally ignore it. Here in the UK there are people still suffering the aftermath of floods more than a year later.
    Let’s at least hope for a long uneventful period now so that there’s a chance to rebuild and recover.

  2. So so sorry to read about the fire. How terrifying for those caught up in it. And, yes, let’s hope for a long uneventful period. Very long. Very uneventful.

  3. I am so so sorry for all of you there. Never heard a thing about this till I saw your post. So glad that you and yours are safe and well, but how horrible and devastating for those affected on the far side of the city. News reporting of situations like this has become very unhelpful in my opinion – fanning the flames as it were – (sorry)-creating hype when the awfulness of the situation is already bad enough. I think it started with the Twin Towers, and again with Princess Di’s death – misinformation, hype, minute by minute reporting that really contains no news but just speculation or rehashing of old news. Social media has only exacerbated this phenomenon and I guess it’s here to stay. I suppose what’s next is all the blaming and finger pointing that seems inevitable after disasters. However it started, however the decisions were made to control that fire, despite the loss of several homes and tragically the life of the helicopter pilot – every single person involved was doing their best. The losses could have been so much greater.

    • Ugh! I loathe the blame game. Reflection and investigation are good to make sure we learn and grow, but blame is useless. It just makes people angry and bitter and, for those who were up there doing their job, hesitant to put themselves in that position again. Can you tell I’m just a little over the media, social or otherwise, at the moment 🙂 ?

  4. I am glad you are all okay. Poor Christchurch! I often wonder how long people can carry on re-building and re-building a city, a school, a home. It must take great strength of mind as well as body to carry on doing it. And the expense too! I too, am very, very sorry.

  5. Hi, Natural disasters have the capacity to bring out the best and worst in people and communities. There are those who will do what is in their power to support and encourage those affected and those who seek to exploit the situation.
    As your lived experience demonstrates, the internal resources and resilience of individuals directly impacted can be severely tested, but the experience also develops empathy with those impacted by other disasters because you have been there.

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