9 Feb 2019

Nelson fire: South Wai-iti residents put on standby for evacuation

6:56 pm on 9 February 2019

Residents in south Wai-iti who were warned yesterday they may have to evacuate are being told their area is now causing emergency services the most concern.

At media briefing for Nelson fire

Acting district commander Zane Hooper Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Acting district commander Zane Hooper told the latest media briefing this afternoon that it was critical residents obeyed any instruction from police or other emergency services. There were around 235 properties within the area of concern, and all occupants should be "prepared to move".

Evacuation notices would go out via media, SMS messages to cellphones, and police and other emergency personnel would also be going door-to-door.

Police would also issue directions as to whether vehicles should head north or south along State Highway 6 if the evacuation order was given.

Anyone who had already left their properties was asked to register at the welfare centre at Saxton Stadium or phone 03 543 8400.

Fire and Emergency incident controller John Sutton said the fire had moved about 2km closer to Wakefield today onto the Wai-iti Flats. It had moved downhill closer to the flat, but one advantage of this was that the lower scrubland was shorter so it was easier to put out any fires and that was "what was happening at the moment".

It had been a "fairly intense" day. Tomorrow's forecast with wind predicted between 40 and 50km/hr (our biggest enemy, he said) the situation remained volatile.

Around 85 percent of a control line around the perimeter of the fire was now in place and they would again be using drones at night to record heat levels and look for the 30 metre interior containment that signalled a reduced danger of flare-ups.

Roger Ball from Civil Defence said there was still no indication when the state of emergency might be lifted. Some residents had been able to make trips to their properties this afternoon to gather some belongings and check on stock and it was hoped restricted access might be allowed into areas in the coming days.

Other pointers:

  • Community meetings had been well attended this morning and another would be held on Monday evening, with time and location still to be advised. The school and pre-schools would not open on Monday, however, a meeting was being held with the Ministry of Education in the hope another location for school children could be arranged.
  • Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne has urged anyone using mechanical equipment in the region to stop immediately and said it would be irresponsible to continue during the current emergency.
  • Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said the next 24 hours would be critical with fears about what the wind might do with possibly "considerable gusts" forecast for tomorrow. She urged everyone to stay out of the reserves. She thanked those who were contributing blankets and food as well as turning up to cook for those working.