Nelson fire: Police urge residents to respect cordon

12:03 pm on 10 February 2019

Police have urged people evacuated from the fire zone not to breach civil defence cordons to check on their animals and properties.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read

Detective Superintendent Peter Read Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

A large fire has been burning in the Tasman area south of Nelson since Tuesday. About 3000 people have already been evacuated from Wakefield and the Eves, Teapot, Redwood and Pigeon valleys.

Speaking at a news conference this morning, Detective Superintendent Peter Read said Ministry for Primary Industries staff have been checking on animals in the fire zone, and have alerted police to the problem.

"They're not going through cordons, they're going through farm land. We want farmers and residents to work with us not against us.

"Public safety is our main concern so we'd ask them to use the controlled visits back into properties when they can."

Police suspect two fires in the Nelson area this week were deliberately lit.

The fires on Rabbit Island on Wednesday and Walter Bluff near Iwa Road on Friday diverted fire fighters from the major blaze.

Watch the news conference:

Civil defence controller Roger Ball said it was a good night last night, "there were no major issues ... and no further evacuations".

Earlier in the day, John Sutton from Fire and Emergency said the focus for today would be on trying to put out the fire and he was concerned about the forecast winds gusts of 45km/h.

He said firefighters would be able to manage winds up to 50km/h, but they would pull out if winds became stronger.

Mr Sutton said there was a control line completely around the fire made up of bulldozer lines, roads and river bed, and they currently had all the resources they need.

"We are probably in the best position we possibly could be to be prepared for this wind event."

However, at midday the MetService was forecasting similar conditions to yesterday, with winds of between 25 and 35km/h.

The fire area is approximately 2300 hectares with a perimeter of about 25 km, and was less than 2km from Wakefield, Mr Sutton said.

There's 155 firefighters on the ground today, he said, along with 23 helicopters and three planes.

Fire and Emergency Tasman area commander Grant Haywood and Fire and Emergency incident controller John Sutton

Fire and Emergency incident controller John Sutton in green vest. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Police visited 170 properties in Wai-iti yesterday and handed out information on what to do if they needed to evacuate.

Mr Ball said the Defence Force would continue to provide a managed convoy on SH6 through Wakefield between 8am and 6pm, but was for passing traffic only, and not for people to stop and check their properties.

He said he would continue to liaise with residents at the fringe of the fire cordon to get temporary access to their properties in a controlled way,

Machinery ban because of spark risk

Civil Defence has ordered people in the Nelson and Tasman areas not to mow their lawns or use agricultural machinery that might strike a spark.

It said prohibited activities include those where metal meets stone: mowing, discing, harrowing, stump grinding and cultivation.

Outdoor activities also prohibited include gas cutting, welding, angle grinding, and all use of chainsaws and scrub/bar cutters.

Commercial forest harvesting activities are also to cease, however provision can be made for the loading and mobilising of harvested material from landings.

Mr Ball said the prohibition notice has been made under the civil defence declaration of emergency.

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said people who were not able to work because of the ban should contact the Ministry of Social Development on 04 916 3300 for assistance.

Animal welfare

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the SPCA have been feeding and rescuing animals stranded in the no-go area around the fire.

The ministry said there were more than 200 lifestyle blocks in the area and crews had been taking food and water to animals and in some cases transporting them to the Richmond showgrounds.

MPI response manager Charlotte Austin said Redwood Valley was re-visited yesterday when cordons were briefly opened to residents.

"We are confident that every one of the animals still in place in the valley has been accounted for, fed and watered, and is in a good state.

"Anyone who is worried about animals whether inside the cordon, or anywhere near the fires, should phone 0800 008 333."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs