The latest fire map showing scale of the fire, evacuated areas in blue and those ready to evacuate in yellow. Photo: Civil Defence

UPDATED: Wakefield residents could return home by 5pm

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Wakefield residents may be able to return from 5pm tonight, Civil Defence says.

It means about 3000 people could return home, however, a final decision will be made by 4pm.

They will be returning to an area that is deemed “prepare to evacuate”.

“They will need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions change,” said Civil Defence’s Roger Ball.

He said unfortunately Valley residents will not be able to return as it was a more complex scenario, such as including areas affected by fire.

Those residents are unlikely to be able to return today.

Police acting district commander Zane Hooper said that he would ask residents to prepare themselves for possible reentry. But in the interim asked for them not return to the Wakefield area.

“A lot can happen between now and 4pm.”

Quieter night

Firefighters say they made significant progress overnight and feel like they have turned a corner in battling the Pigeon Valley blaze.

Fire and Emergency’s John Sutton said that last night was one of the quietest nights for firefighters due to dew on the ground and humidity meaning there was less fuel for the fire.

“Making significant progress and getting through yesterday got the feeling we are starting to turn a corner.”

Fire managers flew heat-seeking drones over the fire ground overnight.

Only a small number of hot spots were found and these were managed by firefighters overnight.

However, there was still an enormous amount of heat and hundreds hectares that haven’t burned yet.

“There will be firefighters working on that fire well into March.”

Weather conditions for the next few days remain benign with warm temperatures and light winds, ideal for firefighters.

Re-entry plan worked on

Nelson Tasman Civil Defence controller Roger Ball said there had been a good couple of days of weather and there had been some outstanding work in managing the fire.

They were actively working on a plan for re-entry for residents into Wakefield township and will let people when it is safe to do so.

“We wouldn’t like to put a time or date on that.”

There were still convoys in place for residents travelling to the other side of Wakefield and a state of a emergency was still in place as well as a total fire band and machinery ban.

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said that it was “really encouraging” to hear to progress made.

“For everybody that has been evacuated this has been a very stressful time and everybody involves understands it. So do I. .. it is very unsettling, all of the normal has gone by the boards. As soon as you can go back you will, but we have to be aware of safety.”

Animals tended to

MPI said that 100 sheep evacuated from Eves Valley yesterday and 200 birds were evacuated with help from SPCA from Redwood Valley.

There are now more than 300 animals in the Richmond Showgrounds but urged the public not to visit unless they personally had animals there.

People needing stock food can call Federated Farmers 0800 327 646, option 2 goes to a live database which is accessed by Federated Farms and MPI. Stock feed is coming from all over the South Island.

If you had concerns for your animals call 0800008333.