Firefighters have been working overnight to contain a devastating blaze in the Tasman district which has burned large tracts of land, destroyed homes and killed livestock.
The fire had spread to 1900 hectares at two sites near Nelson — about four times the size of Auckland's CBD and a greater area than the devastating Port Hills fires in Christchurch two years ago.
Tasman District mayor Richard Kempthorne told Kate Hawkesby the fire crews have been doing an "incredible job".
"They worked through the night last night, I think. The night before they couldn't because quite a bit of the fire was simply too dangerous to be in but with the change of wind direction yesterday and a cooler day, it has made quite a difference."
However, he said their work is far from over.
"We have had 1900 hectares burnt, so there is now a lot of smouldering trees which could reignite if the conditions worsen, so that's what they are going to be working on with helicopters and ground crew."
The conditions are similar to yesterday with moderate winds and a high of 20°C expected in Nelson today.
Kempthorne said the change of wind direction will hopefully help fire crews.
About 235 homes had been evacuated, mostly in the Pigeon Valley region southwest of Nelson, and residents were told they would not be able to return for two or three days.
He said the fire has been alarming for the 400 people who have been evacuated.
"If you're in a rural residential area...where the fire is burning and it's burning a lot quicker than people thought and then suddenly it's on the top of the hill behind your place, it is very scary."
"People have responded really well to that if they have been asked to leave, they have left."
He said it is still too early to know when the fire will be out but the fire crews are doing their best.
Both fires are being investigated to find out what started them.