Two major fires have merged into one massive blaze on Christchurch's Port Hills overnight.
-Eight buildings have been destroyed, thousands have been evacuated from more than 450 properties
-The fire now spans at least 1800 hectares across the hills
-A state of emergency has been declared and the Defence Force called in.
8:35am: Cashmere area resident John Gordon has lost everything. He says he came home to see his house engulfed by flames, along with his classic car collection. "We thought we were going back to our house, we never believed for a minute it was going to be burnt down. "We didn't really take it seriously to be honest."
8:30am: Rain isn't expected in Christchurch until Friday afternoon. An easterly wind is expected to turn into a northerly over the morning, with wind speeds picking up to 30km/h in the afternoon. Around 120 firefighters and support crew have been involved in ground operations to battle the fires that broke out on Monday night. About 85 Defence Force personnel are helping with efforts.
8:28am: A Cashmere resident living outside the evacuation area says she is mainly concerned about the speed at which the fire is travelling. "I'm feeling OK at this point, but pretty devastated, really, when you look at the damage out there. "We have cats locked inside, cat cages ready [and] the dog locked in his crate, ready to go."
8:25am: Metro Christchurch says a number of its buses can't be tracked as its information system is affected by the fire. "It is likely that our systems will be affected for a number of days and we ask that if your bus does not appear on "next bus" tools that you use the bus timetables instead. "Metro thank all fire fighters for their hard work and dedication to keeping our communities safe." As of Thursday two bus services are affected by the fire: Blue Line - all trips will end at Princess Margaret Hospital, no trips will travel to Cashmere Hill 145 Westmorland - Eastgate - all trips will end on Cashmere Rd no buses will travel up Penruddock Rise in Westmorland.
8:18am: Prime Minister Bill English has cancelled all of his scheduled events on Thursday to head to Christchurch. Mr English had several events in Waikanae and Queenstown, but will now head to the fire-ravaged city to get updates on the emergency response.
8:10am: Residents in the Dyers Pass Rd area of Cashmere Hills, from Kiteroa Pl to Pentre Tce are among the latest to have been told to leave their properties immediately, police say.
8:05am: Many schools are expected to be closed because of the fire. Cashmere Primary School and Governors Bay School is confirmed closed, but Cashmere High School will be open today. Kidsfirst Cashmere Kindergarten is closed. 8:01am: "We've watched up to ten helicopters with monsoon buckets pour over this hill and focus on one house in particular," Newshub correspondent Alice Wilkins told The AM Show. "Flames have just spread up the hill towards the house and before it disappeared behind a huge plume of smoke it was in immediate danger. "There are about four other houses nearby and they could be in danger as well," she says.
8:00am: "Emergency services are constantly having to move around and change direction as the fire changes course and people driving to the area to take photos or see the fire for themselves makes their job a lot harder. Please stay away from the area and stay safe," police say.
7:50am: Helicopters are in the air with monsoon buckets and desperately trying to douse flames before they destroy a house near Dyer's Pass Rd. There are several houses on the hill above Cashmere where the flames have gone. The flames are only metres away from the properties, Newshub corresondent Alice Wilkins says.
7:40am: Jasmine Peate-Garratt was evacuated from her home, after moving in just the day before. She told The AM Show it's hard to know what is going to happen, and she is overwhelmed by how big and out of control the fire is. "It seems like it's got out of control pretty fast. It's just been constant helicopters going overhead," she said.
7:35am: Plumes of smoke continue to rise over Christchurch, with city residents sharing dramatic images online