The areas under evacuation. Photo: Civil Defence

Wakefield evacuated


With weather set to fan the flames of the Pigeon Valley fire today, more residents have been told to evacuate their homes.

Wakefield residents north of State Highway 6 between Pigeon Valley Road and Simmonds Road have been asked to evacuate due to the risk associated with wind change. This is a precaution for the 200 or so homes there.

Wakefield residents in the area bordered by Barton Lane, Higgins Road and Baigent Valley Road are being asked to evacuate now as well.

The additional area now to be evacuated is bound by

-Barton Lane to the north

– Higgins Road to the east, through to Baigent Valley Road to the south.

As part of the evacuation process, State Highway 6 will be closed in the evacuated area to assist Police with controlling the area.

Police said 100 households south of Wakefield in addition to those already being evacuated should prepare to leave if asked to.

With the Nelson and Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Operations team decision to evacuate more streets in Wakefield, State Highway 6 which runs through the town is being closed for the safety of all road users.

“People will be able to leave the town but not enter State Highway 6 to get to Wakefield,” says NZ Transport Agency system manager Frank Porter.

Northbound traffic will be stopped at Kohatu on the south side and Robinsons Road, and just south of Brightwater for southbound traffic. A detour will be put in place via Motueka on the inland highway.

Civil Defence says if you are elsewhere in Wakefield be prepared to evacuate or self-evacuate. There are about 360 residences there. Police estimate about 1200 residents it total.

“It’s just not possible to give enough warning … to allow people to move out should the fire start to move,” said FENZ regional manager John Sutton

“Hopefully the worst doesn’t happen today but we are prepared.

“We are doing everything to minimise the intensity of the fire but in the end it’s whether the weather is kind to us or not.”

People are asked to please take water, food, medicines, pets and valuables and asked to register at the new evacuation centre at Saxton Stadium or ring 03 543 8400.

Police are working with all agencies to conduct this evacuation and ensure residents are safe and informed.

Extra New Zealand Defence Force personnel are assisting NZ Police with evacuations.

Commodore Tony Millar, the Acting Commander Joint Forces, said seven of the 33 NZDF personnel already in Nelson would continue working with crews from Fire and Emergency New Zealand and Department of Conservation at Redwood Valley Road. About 21 others were working with police to enforce cordons in affected areas, and five were supporting Civil Defence and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

Civil Defence emergency management group controller Dennis Bush-King says the priority remains protecting people, their property and critical infrastructure.

Temporary residents’ access has been granted for a two-hour period to residents along Golden Hills Rd, to go back to their properties. They have the opportunity to collect essential belongings and to ensure their domestic animals are looked after and to check on stock.

Staying safe in the smoke

Nelson Marlborough Health says the greatest risk is to those in the path of the fire, who must follow the directions of emergency service representatives for their immediate safety.

However, for those closest to the fire, smoke from the fire may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and airways.

“These symptoms should quickly pass after you remove yourself from the smoke, with no long-term consequences.”

But people with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other lung disease are at greatest risk from smoke inhalation. People with angina or other heart disease might also be at greater risk.

People with these conditions should avoid exposure to smoke if possible. If you have any of these conditions and you are being exposed to smoke you should:

  • remain indoors
  • close all the windows and doors
  • turn off ventilation, air conditioning and heating systems that draw in air from outside until the plume has dispersed or moved away, and you can no longer smell smoke.

If you start to develop symptoms, use the medicines prescribed to you by your doctor.

If your symptoms worsen and do not respond to their usual measures, call your General Practice or Healthline 0800 611 116. If you experience breathlessness or chest pain, call 111.

Advice for everyone

In healthy people, most symptoms will disappear soon after the exposure to smoke has ended, without any long-term consequences.

If you are on a roof water supply and a lot of ash is falling on your roof, it might be best to disconnect the pipe to the tank, and only reconnect it after the next heavy rain (discarding the ‘first flush’), to avoid getting ash in your water supply.

Please follow the instructions of the emergency service representatives, and keep up to date via the Nelson Tasman Civil Defence website and Facebook pages (links below). Turn on a radio and keep it tuned to news of the fire, or keep a news live feed open on your computer.