Low cloud, not smoke

The communications tower on Sugarloaf on Wednesday afternoon as the Port Hills fire was picking up once again

From the lounge window, I can see the communications tower on Sugarloaf, and for the last three mornings, I’ve woken before daylight and checked to see what it’s like over there. Wednesday and Thursday mornings, I could see the tower’s warning lights through a smoky haze. This morning, I couldn’t see it at all, but it’s low cloud, not smoke, obscuring the view.

Outside at 5 am, it was drizzling. What little rain there has been has helped, it seems, although there’s a lot of hard work ahead. Once the fire is no longer a threat, people still have to go through the process of getting back into their homes, one which could be long and draining for those who’ve lost their houses. Many of these people have probably already been through the disaster recovery process and have had their houses repaired or rebuilt following the quakes. To have to do it all over again must be truly heart-breaking.

Fires aren’t covered by EQC, unless they’re a consequence of a natural disaster, so affected residents will be calling upon their private insurers. And because fires tends to be small-scale, localised events, insurers’ exposure to these events won’t pose the same threat to their profit-margin as larger events like earthquakes. Here in Christchurch, insurers have learned some bad habits (and here and here) in the last few years, and it remains to be seen how well they’ll behave with Port Hills homeowners. But the total destruction that fire brings means Port Hills residents likely won’t have to face the repair-anything mentality that has so plagued the rebuild.

Here’s hoping this thing doesn’t spread again, and that people can get back to their homes without another manmade disaster like the one that followed Christchurch’s last natural one.