New Zealand has declared a state of emergency after a massive wildfire began raging through Christchurch, the county's third largest city. Over 1,000 people have been evacuated and 11 properties have been destroyed.

Christchurch wildfires
A helicopter drops fire retardant on wildfires near Christchurch on New Zealand's South IslandMark Hannah/Reuters

Firefighters were batting to extinguish the fire on Thursday (16 February). Seventeen helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were dispatched amid forecasts for winds that could fan the flames. A helicopter pilot died on Tuesday (14 February) after crashing while tackling the blaze. The crew from a US coast guard ship, docked in the nearby port of Lyttleton, have been helping local defence forces.

Christchurch wildfires
Wildfires threaten a suburb of Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island taken after sunsetMark Hannah/Reuters
Christchurch wildfires
Members of the public look on as smoke and fire light up ChristchurchKai Schwoerer/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English was briefed by emergency services personnel near the areas affected. "It makes you realise just what a threat this fire has been to the community. But also the enormous effort of these specialist skills that these firefighters have," he said.

According to emergency workers, a change in the wind direction is expected for later in the week that will lower temperatures and humidity, and could slow the fire's progress. However, the cause of the fire still remains unknown and authorities are investigating.

Christchurch wildfires
Members of the public watch smoke and fire rise in the distanceKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
Smoke and fire light up around Worsleys RoadKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
Smoke and fire light up around Worsleys RoadKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
Firefighters examine a map showing the active firesKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English speaks to firefightersKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
A firefighting helicopter carries water to extinguish a fire at Worsleys RoadKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
Smoke rises behind residential housingKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
A member of the public looks on as smoke and fire light up between Sugarloaf communications tower and Christchurch Adventure ParkKai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Christchurch wildfires
Wildfires are seen in the distance of residential housingKai Schwoerer/Getty Images