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The department store blaze remains the deadliest fire in New Zealand history, claiming the lives of 41 people.
Longtime Christchurch resident Don Clark was nearby on the day and said everyone was connected to someone affected.
"I know my parents knew two people who died in the fire so it left a mark on the community for quite a long time."
Clark said he was a ten-year-old at the time and had just finished school for the day.
"It was quite a vicious fire that's for sure when I look back now in my memory I can see some of the firefighting equipment, it was pretty ancient stuff."
Ballantynes chief executive Maria O'Halloran said the enormity of the sad event is etched in the company's DNA.
At least 680 people were in Ballantynes at the time of the fire - 430 staff and 250 customers.
The bodies of those who were killed couldn't be identified.
One more person, Violet Cody, died later in hospital with her unborn child. She had leaped, screaming, from a window.