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Homes lost as Tasman fire doubles in size overnight

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:20a.m.
The Tasman fire has doubled in size overnight. Photo / Supplied
The Tasman fire has doubled in size overnight. Photo / Supplied

A massive fire raging near Nelson has destroyed homes and forced dozens of families to evacuate.

The fire that started yesterday afternoon in Pigeon Valley had doubled in size overnight and spread to cover 1870ha within a perimeter of 20km by 3am, a Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman said.

They would not be able to confirm further growth until daylight.

Fanned by southerly winds over most of the night the fire has caused material damage from Pigeon Valley north to the Inland Moutere Highway and Waimea West Rd.

More than 100 homes have been evacuated or self-evacuated with people registering with the Civil Defence Centre in Wakefield.

People have been evacuated from Eves Valley, Golden Hills Rd, Redwood Valley Rd, Mallings Rd and Greenacres Rd.

Notice of potential evacuation are in place for top end of Sunrise Valley and Deep Dale Rd in Upper Moutere and Pigeon Valley.

There have been no reports of injury or worse.

Overnight 12 crews fought the blaze on an increasing front protecting as many structures as possible and minimising the burn on grasslands.

Properties have been destroyed in Eve and Redwood Valleys areas overnight. The number and location will be confirmed once the conditions allow entry into the area.

The 12 new crews taking over will be supported in daylight by at least 10 helicopters and 2 fixed-wing aircraft with heavy machinery on the ground.

Current weather forecast sees light winds coming from the north at dawn, a change from the southerly conditions until now. While the temperatures will be lower than recently experienced the wind is expected to build from the north as the day progresses. The weather conditions will be built into the plan for the day.

Plumes of smoke clouded the area as the fire began yesterday afternoon. Photo / supplied.
Plumes of smoke clouded the area as the fire began yesterday afternoon. Photo / supplied.

If people evacuate and leave their homes it is asked they register with the Civil Defence Centre at St Johns Church, Edwards St in Wakefield and to ring Civil Defence, 03 5437290, to register they have moved and are safe. This is important to ensure everyone is accounted for and safe.

If people feel unsafe or unsure in any way they are advised to self-evacuate to the Civil Defence Centre.

Last night Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the fire was devastating for the local community.

"It's a wicked fire and we've got exceptionally dry forestry and there's been a strong wind blowing which has just whipped it through.

"It's covered quite a lot of ground and it's really a very unpleasant fire, so it's really quite impactful."

Stephen Cox said the Nelson area hasn't seen rain in over a month and with dry conditions the wind is helping to fuel the fire.

Cox said he first heard sirens shortly after 2pm and only a small plume of smoke could be seen. Now there was a "huge ball of smoke".

"[It has been burning] at least two and a half hours ... there was only a small amount of smoke but since then we've had multiple fire engines, multiple police vehicles all hurtling out there.

"We haven't had rain here for weeks and weeks and there's quite a strong southwesterly wind helping the blaze."

"There's just a huge ball of smoke and [water] tankers going out there and fire engines going out there."

A fire raging in Pigeon Valley near Nelson has spread overnight to cover 1870 hectares. Photo / Nelson Weekly
A fire raging in Pigeon Valley near Nelson has spread overnight to cover 1870 hectares. Photo / Nelson Weekly

A Civil Defence centre has been opened at St Johns Anglican church, Edwards St, Wakefield to help those evacuated.

A spokesman for the Tasman District Council asks people who have been evacuated to register at the centre to ensure their whereabouts is known regardless if they choose to stay at the centre or not.

Updates to the situation will be posted on the Tasman Marlborough Fire Area Facebook page.

Due to high temperatures, dry soil and vegetation, fire risk is extreme in the following areas across the country: Northland, Coromandel, Nelson, Marlborough. A total fire ban is in place for these areas.

Fire risk is also high in the following areas and fire restrictions are in place: Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Bay of Plenty, Central North Island, Wairarapa, Southland/Otago and, as of January 29, North Christchurch.

If you are in one of these areas and thinking about lighting a fire, go to www.checkitsalright.nz to check your fire type and, if needed, apply for a fire permit.

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