Nelson fire: Wakefield under threat as blaze nears river flats

11:30 am on 9 February 2019

The Nelson fire remains a threat to life and property, says Nelson Tasman Civil Defence area controller Roger Ball.

"The situation remains dynamic, changeable. There remains a threat to life and property," Mr Ball told a media briefing in Appleby this morning.

He said it was impossible to speculate on lifting the state of emergency at this stage. Although good progress had been been made within fire zone things could change quickly.

Fire and Emergency incident controller John Sutton said the fire was moving very slowly at present and was around 10km from Wakefield.

  • People forcibly or voluntarily evacuating the area are asked to please take water, food, medicines, pets and valuables and asked to register at Saxton Field Stadium, Stoke or ring 03 543 8400.
  • "We now predict at the current weather it would take six hours for the fire to burn to the river flats from where it is," says Fire and Emergency incident controller John Sutton.

    "Once it gets to the river flats your talking about less than 2km ... there's a change in vegetation type, it's a lot shorter."

    "It increases our opportunities for a direct attack on the fire but unfortunately if it's driven by a northerly you can't put people out in front of the fire ... you can't see."

    He said he was concerned about forecast high winds tomorrow afternoon. The prospect of 50km/h winds put efforts to control the fire "in the hands of God".

    "I'm worried about tomorrow to be honest ... If we get winds anywhere near 50km today we're in trouble ... it's vital today [to try and ensure containment of the fire]."

    Mr Sutton said Fire and Emergency would begin using drones today to use infrared for locating hotspots.

    Police say about 3000 people have been evacuated because of the fire, most from the town of Wakefield.

    Nelson Tasman Civil Defence group controller Roger Ball addresses the briefing this morning.

    Roger Ball addresses the media conference this morning. Photo: Photo / Rebekah Parsons-King

    Two evacuations have seen most residents of Wakefield who live in 860 properties have been completed.

    Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said: "We're still in avery active situation, we're still in a very volatile situation. I really would like to thank everyone who's been evacuated.

    "It really is likely to be days that the volatility and risk will still be there."

    The NZ Defence Force will be running escorted convoys on SH6 through Wakefield today, for residents of Wakefield with no stopping or diversions.

    NZDF spokesperson Kevin Kim said it was not an opportunity to check on affected properties, but to allow residents to safely commute through without having to travel an hour and a half around to the Motueka highway.

    Nelson residents were expected to continue to use the highway. SH6 remains closed to all other traffic.

    Tasman police acting district commander Zane Hooper said 110 police staff from outside the region have been brought in, along with 40 recruits from the police college who have also been sworn and brought in.

    More NZDF staff were also being brought in, bringing the number up to 110 by the end of today.

    He said the local marae was also being opened up for people to go to today after iwi met yesterday.

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