8 Feb 2019

Nelson fire: People take only their treasures during evacuation warning

8:31 am on 8 February 2019

They thought the worst had happened and that the charred growth extending across the Tasman region had passed them by.

But then something sparked.

Plumes of black smoke started to rise above Teapot Valley and then the wind started to blow.

In the space of a couple of hours the residents of Teapot Valley Road, on the eastern front of the massive Tasman bushfire, had to flee their homes.

Cars were packed with only the most treasured items: Photo albums and picture frames, vintage wines, awards from years gone by and, of course, the cat and the dog.

There were old hotrods placed on trailers and boats pulled out of the garage.

For one woman, her most treasured item was almost left behind.

In the rush to escape the possible path of the fire she had to leave her horse behind.

Fortunately, her daughter was able to get inside the cordon before it became too dangerous and rescued the horse from an uncertain fate.

Teapot Valley is at the centre of the fire, which has stretched across more than 1900 hectares, and has a perimeter of 22 kilometres.

Even so, Graham Cole did not expect to be evacuated. Nobody did.

"I think a lot of it is precaution," Mr Cole said outside the Teapot Valley Road cordon.

"We're a couple of [kilometres from] the fire, but sure, it's jumped the boundary I believe and could come down.

"It's just the dry conditions. And we have got dry grass around our place."

Mr Cole is one of the many residents who was able to keep positive despite being forced from his home.

He said his most valued items were with him.

"My car, my boat, just my toys. Bugger with my toothbrush."

Not everyone is feeling as positive.

Alex Storer was outside the cordon looking in, hoping to get a chance to get some items from his home.

He and his family had been left with only what they were wearing.

"The neighbour down the road, who still hasn't been removed, has grabbed my dog, but we'd still like to go and grab some personal belongings."

For Leisa Ferguson, the evacuation came as a surprise.

Her property was being used as a base for emergency staff fighting the fire in Teapot Valley.

"We've actually got an airstrip here, so we've got all the fire trucks and stuff on our property so we kind of felt okay about it."

Ms Ferguson is full of praise for the efforts of the people on the front line.

"They deserve a medal. They're amazing.

"All the firemen, the helicopters, we've been watching them from home; the top-dressing pilots - we just can't thank them enough - they're amazing."

With people in 25 properties evacuated from Teapot Valley Road, it makes more than 200 homes that have had to be left behind as the fire rages into its fourth day.

Some residents had hoped to return home today but with conditions changing, they may have to wait some time longer.

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