WELLINGTON, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of people who fled their homes as wild fires swept through the outskirts of New Zealand's second largest city began to return to their properties Friday.
Authorities in the South Island city of Christchurch began lifting cordons in the Port Hills area four days after the fires began, said Christchurch Civil Defence officials.
The Port Hills blaze was believed to have claimed 11 houses and two sheds, but the full extent of the damage would not be known for some time.
The fire covered an area of 2,075 hectares, and about 400 houses and about 1,000 people have been evacuated, said a city council statement.
Rain on Friday had helped firefighters and cooled the ground, but there was still a risk of flare ups.
"It will take days for hot spots to cool completely," it said.
Emergency services were moving from air-based to ground-based firefighting.
Fifteen crew from the United States Coast Guard heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star were assisting police and the New Zealand Defence Force in the evacuated areas.
A New Zealand air force aircraft carrying fire retardant was expected to arrive in Christchurch from Australia late Friday.
A state of local emergency has been declared in Christchurch and in the neighboring Selwyn district.
Police and fire services are investigating the cause of the fire.
On Tuesday, a pilot died when a helicopter crashed while helping to fight against the fires in the hills around Christchurch.