The special edition of the Nelson Weekly.

Triumph amid the fire

We say: Our days of fire, chaos and thanks


These have been days that none of us will soon forget.

What started as a small rural fire last Tuesday afternoon quickly grew into one of the largest firefights the country has ever seen. We have witnessed the uncertainty and fear that comes with a state of emergency on our door step.

We have heard the sirens, the endless drone of helicopters. We have seen the army in our streets and friends and family forced from their homes. It has surely been the region’s greatest test.

But we have also witnessed scenes of incredible skill, determination and perseverance in the form of the firefighters, helicopter pilots, volunteers and all manner of personnel that have worked tirelessly over the past week. We are lucky. No homes or lives were lost. But we are also lucky to have these people among us, as part of our community.

As if fighting a fire in Tasman wasn’t enough, our resources were tested even further when two more fires broke out in the region – one in Rabbit Island and another in central Nelson on Walters Bluff. That was when, for those living in Nelson, the fire really hit home.

Because despite our closeness to Tasman and seeing the smoke over the way, life almost carried on as normal. That feeling changed last Friday when the Nelson hills went up in smoke.

We were all in this together. It highlighted our precarious vulnerability to these sorts of events. They can happen so easily and escalate so quickly. But it also highlighted the incredible generosity and bravery of those who live among us.

Our role as a news organisation was small by comparison – helping inform those close and afar of what was going on. It was a privilege to do so.

We all have a role in times of disaster – whether it be in the face of flames or making sandwiches for those at the front line. No matter the contribution, one we can all make is to acknowledge those who gave up their daily lives to help. They did it for us.

So, when the final flames are extinguished, the final hot spots dampened down, the firefighters from around the country have left, and those evacuated have all returned home, do not forget what happened here in our days of chaos and triumph.

Remember the risks and the challenges we face. And remember, as I am doing right now, to say thank you to those who have helped along the way.