The area of the fire and evacuations. Photo: Civil Defence

FIRE: What you need to know today


Firefighters say that progress was made yesterday but high winds could undo their efforts.

“I’m a bit worried about tomorrow to be honest,” Fire and Emergency New Zealand controller John Sutton told a media conference this morning.

There was expected to be high winds.

“We are in a quite place strategically for today but we are in the hands of the gods when it comes to the wind.”

Fire activity has increased this morning. The most significant efforts are currently focused on a fire front near Wakefield which is moving slowly downslope.

Additional resources from around the country will also be arriving to assist and replace some crews who have been working for 5 days.

The relative humidity has increased this morning which will help firefighting efforts today.  Today’s winds are also forecast to be lower than yesterday, gusting up to around 30km/h by 6pm today and are predicted to reach 50km/h tomorrow.

The Wakefield evacuations were triggered by a fire line being breached, he said. It meant that the fire was less than 10km from Wakefield. However, it would take six hours to burn to the river flats, which were 2km from Wakefield.

Nelson was the scene of the largest aerial fire fight in New Zealand’s history yesterday as 22 helicopters, two fixed wing planes and almost 150 personnel battled flames in Tasman and the central city.

In Pigeon Valley, the fire is estimated to be 2100ha with a perimeter of 27km. Fire observers in helicopters have been in position over Wakefield.

There were 100 people personnel fighting the fire overnight.

Wakefield Evacuations:

There are two evacuation areas are currently in place for Wakefield residents.

  • Residents north of SH6 between Pigeon Valley Road and Simmonds Road.
  • Residents in the area bordered by Barton Lane, Higgins Road and Baigent Valley Road.

Around 860 properties have been evacuated from this area. Police have cordons and security patrols in place.

Civil Defence controller Roger Ball said that 2500 people had been evacuated. He said it was “dynamic” and “changeable” and would not estimate how much longer the state of emergency would be in place.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said it was likely to be days that the volatility will be there even with good conditions

“Residents need to be aware that this is not going to be over overnight.”

Managed escort                                                                                       

Residents in the rural areas east of Wakefield who are outside the evacuation zone will have managed access from 8am to 6pm today. The New Zealand Defence Fore will be running escorted convoys through the portion of SH6 that runs through Wakefield township. This will allow access through Wakefield for residents who would otherwise not be able to get past cordons on Eighty Eight Valley Rd, Totara Rd, Church Valley Rd and Bridge Valley Rd.

The Highway remains closed for all other traffic, which would continue to use the signposted detour through the Motueka Valley.

The escorted convoys will be running straight through the town with no stopping or diversions. They are not an opportunity for residents within the evacuation zone to check on property.

There will be checkpoints at the South end of Wakefield and in the vicinity of Spring Grove for those needing to join the convoy.

Nelson fire

A fire broke out around 2.30pm yesterday above Iwa Road. Initially five helicopters, two fixed-wing planes, four appliances and five tankers attended the fire. It then flared back into life at about 5.30pm. Three helicopters returned to get it under control. A crew was present overnight. Thirty five people self evacuated but they have been allowed to return to their homes.

Civil Defence Centre Registrations

In the Wider Wakefield area, 863 people have registered with the Civil Defence Centre. If you have evacuated and have not registered, please do so by phoning 03 543 8400. Mobile numbers and email addresses are appreciated.

The centre at Saxton Stadium is open overnight for affected residents.

Community meetings

Two meetings will be held on Saturday 9 February:

  • 9am at Appleby School, 28 Moutere Highway
  • 11am – Hope Church, 114 Ranzau Road (note: this meeting will focus on Wakefield)

Health and Welfare advice:

People are advised to access their normal GP in the first instance, and use the emergency department for emergencies.

Anxiety is very common during an emergency event such as an uncontrolled fire. This is a normal response to a very stressful situation. Talking to people and helping others can be both therapeutic and useful.

Please look out for your neighbours, especially the elderly, those in ill-health, and those who live alone.

If you need further support for yourself or for others, call your general practice or Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Further Nelson Marlborough District Health Board advice can be found online

Mayoral Relief Fund

If you want to donate to the Mayoral Relief fund, please use the following details:

Tasman District Council, ASB Bank Ltd, Nelson Commercial Banking

Bank/branch account number: 12-3193-0002048-03

Please include in the reference “relief fund” and your name and contact phone number.

Animal Welfare

Specialist vet and animal rescue teams have been checking animals on properties in the Redwood Valley area this evening.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is coordinating Animal Welfare efforts supported by SPCA and Massey University Veterinary Emergency Response Team.

The teams were able to access the properties under the direct supervision of Police and Fire and Emergency (FENZ) checked animals for injuries and ensured they had access to sufficient water and feed for their immediate needs.

Controller Rob Smith acknowledged that everyone who had been evacuated was keen to get back and check on their homes and animals themselves.

“We had been working on a plan for managed, restricted access today but because of the change in fire conditions and the fresh evacuations, it wasn’t possible for us to allow people back to check on their own stock today.

“If conditions allow, we aim to be able to allow restricted residential access at the weekend and will advise residents directly if this will be possible.”

Anyone with concerns about animals in the fire area should phone MPI on 0800 008 333.

Use the same number to report an animal in trouble or if you are worried about animals in the fire zone.


Road closures

Pigeon Valley at SH6 intersection.

Moutere Highway from Redwood Road to Waimea West Road intersection.

Golden Hill Rd @ Moutere Highway intersection.

Eves Valley Road

Teapot Valley Road

Golden Hills Rd @ Challies Road intersection.

Redwood Valley rd and Redwood Valley lane.

Barton Lane

Symmonds Rd

Arnold Lane

Dovedale Road – Pidgeon Valley

Bird Lane

Franklin Close

Martin Avenue

SH6 from Barton Lane to Baigent Valley Road

88 valley road outside number 66

Gibbs Valley and Church Valley Roads intersection

Cycle Track off Higgins Road

Bird Road at corner of Bird/Higgins Road

Bridge Valley and Mt Heslington where they intersect Higgins Road

Barton Lane and Higgins Road intersection (blocking access on to Barton Lane)