Firefighters had a quieter night last night despite the Pigeon Valley blaze increasingly bearing down on Wakefield.
Fire Emergency New Zealand’s John Sutton said that it was the quietest night the 150 firefighters had faced. However, the fire had grown to 2300ha with a perimeter of 25km. It was now less than 2km from Wakefield.
John said that he was confident the team could control the fire as long as predicted winds did not exceed 50kmh today.
“It will test us … we are probably in the best position we could be to be prepared for this event.”
He said the high winds could reduce the effectiveness of the helicopters and he was unable to put firefighters in front of the fire with winds over 50kmh as it was too dangerous.
“Wakefield is OK at the moment it will be challenged if it exceeds 50kmh.”
He said the morale of the firefighters was good and they were no being rotated with other crews from around the country. The majority were volunteers.
“We have started rotating crews out but they don’t want to seem to go … They want to see this through.”
Commercial activities to cease
Nelson Tasman Civil Defence’s Roger Ball said that commercial activities include those where metal meets stone: mowing, discing, harrowing, stump grinding and cultivation, were now prohibited.
Outdoor activities that can generate sparks or fire are also prohibited, and include gas cutting, welding, angle grinding, and all use of chainsaws and scrub/bar cutters.
Commercial forest harvesting activities are also to cease, however provision can be made for the loading and mobilising of harvested material from landings.
“We ask the public and the commercial operators cooperate with us on this.”
Two arrested on unrelated arsons
Police have overnight arrested two men, aged 24 and 27, on separate unrelated arsons. One was charged with three arsons in rubbish bins in December and January. The other was charged with lighting two fires in skips in Nelson’s CBD. This person was also charged with breaking into cars.
“It’s incredibly stupid,” said a police spokesperson. “What a dumb thing to do. The last thing we need to be doing is chasing other offenders like this.”
A person who was flying a drone outside the cordon was also warned. The man stopped immediately.
Police were still investigating the Walters Bluff fire and were going door to door in the community today.
Animals being cared for
A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesperson said their primary goal was animal care. Teams had been conducting relocations and attending to animals where they were able to.
Anyone worried about animals in the fire affected area should phone the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on 0800 008 333 (option 4).
Where possible, animals are being tended to in place, which is less stressful for them. Crews are working behind the cordon where they can, taking food and water and in some cases bringing animals back to the Richmond Showgrounds.”
One of three farms in the area had its 150 cows and 50 calves moved to a less vulnerable part of the farm. From another property 10 pigs and piglets were rescued and taken to the Showgrounds, and household pets have also been taken there.
“This is an incredibly worrying time for animal owners in the affected areas. They are desperately concerned for their animals and livestock, and we are too.
“Our people are dedicated to the welfare of animals and we will give our all to ensure their protection, but we cannot put human safety or resources dedicated to fighting the fire at risk.”
Relief for rural workers
Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said that the Ministry of Social Development were able to provide assistance to those commercial enterprises affected by fires. He said they should call the local MSD office for more information.
He also reiterated the need to be vigilant.
“It is so dry elsewhere the fire risk is the same.”