Sam Burson with her daughter Isla at Hope Church. Photo: Jonty Dine.

‘It’s frightening’ – Wakefield evacuees speak out


As the Pigeon Valley fire crept closer to her Wakefield home, Sam Burson made the call to self-evacuate her and her two daughters on Thursday night.

“It was coming down Spring Grove and because I have two young kids, decided that we would get out.”

Sam took her three-year-old Rose and four-month-old Isla to her mother’s in Motueka.

Her husband stayed in Wakefield as the engineer is helping maintain the excavators which are securing the perimeter of the blaze.

Having her husband on the front-lines isn’t easing the young mum’s anxiety.

“He is exhausted but was able to come home last night to have a bit of a break.”

Sam says the evacuation has taken a toll on her daughters.

My oldest has been playing up but we are just trying to maintain normality as much as possible. It’s been stressful but we are all safe.”

She says the smoke cloud which hovered over her home added to the felling of angst.

“Luckily the weather has been a bit cooler, so we were able to lock our house up and protect the kids from the smoke.”

Hundreds of evacuees gathered at the Hope Community Church this morning for an update on when they may be able to return home.

However with winds expected to climb later today, no clear time frame could be given.

Elderly couple Graeme and Pat Eden were given ten minutes to evacuate their home yesterday afternoon.

It’s been stressful, something we have never felt before, it does upset you, but you have to deal with it,” says Pat.

Pat’s sister in-law cut short her caravan trip around the country to come home and put up Pat and Graeme in Richmond.

“It was lovely of them to do that but the biggest issue for people is not having somewhere to go, not everyone has relations or friends they can stay with, I have heard there are a few people having to camp in a pop-up tent.”

The couple say they have been struggling to sleep as they come to terms with the “sheer enormity” of the fire.

“We just have to deal with it and hope it doesn’t last too long.”

Pat says they took minimal items as they fled their Wakefield home.

“Our lives are more important, we have still got each other.”