Firefighters battle to contain inferno 4 times size of Auckland CBD

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 February 2019, 7:59AM
The fire in the Tasman District has burnt 1900 hectares of land, destroyed homes and killed livestock. Photo / Tim Cuff


  • 235 homes evacuated, residents can't return for up to three days
  • Fire has spread to 1900 hectares at two sites near Nelson
  • PM Jacinda Ardern flies into today to survey damage

Firefighters have been working to contain the devastating blaze in the Tasman district which has burnt 1900 hectares of land, destroyed homes and killed livestock.

Nelson Civil Defence Emergency Centre controller, Roger Ball told Mike Hosking fire crews have made good progress overnight.

"They are not describing it [fire] yet as contained but they are working towards that and that's the plan for today."

However, he said he couldn't give a time frame for when the fire might be contained because it relies heavily on the weather.

"A lot depends on the weather conditions and a number of other factors but the forecast, although there is no rain in it, isn't too threatening and we are hoping to make good progress."

Ball said they are also focusing on the community and making sure everybody is okay.

He said they will be checking on the estimated 400 people who have been evacuated as well.

"Obviously people are concerned, they are anxious. We are commencing outbound calling today to check in on them and, as I say, we are starting the process of organising some community meetings to keep them up to date."

Tasman Deputy mayor, Tim King was of the 400 people evacuated and he told Mike Hosking he nearly lost his house to the flames.

"The fire got right down to us and about five metres from our house and was saved by some outstanding work from helicopters and firefighters on the ground."

He said there is a huge amount of resources and volunteers committed to containing the fire.

"There is a massive amount of effort from hundreds and hundreds of people."

"On the ground, everyone is doing everything they can."

King said, unfortunately, it is not untypical for Nelson to experience very dry summers.

"This is always a potential risk and I think in New Zealand we massively underestimate the risks of these sorts of events."

NIWA scientist, Chris Brandolino told Mike Hosking the forecast is looking better but there is still risk.

"Looking pretty quiet, pretty subtle. Winds will be largely driven by the seabreeze there so pretty much light, maybe more of a south to a south-east wind in the morning, but then when the seabreeze kicks in midday it will pick up a little bit...and maybe a bit gusty."

"Later this week and potentially early next week, that could be another opportunity for winds to be brisk on a larger scale so we have to watch for that."

He said the weather is not unusual for this time of year and the Tasman isn't officially experiencing a drought yet.

"At the moment, extremely dry conditions are imminent in Tasman and Nelson region, that's kind of one step below drought...on the cusp but not quite there yet."

Other areas of New Zealand are very dry at the moment as well, Brandolino said.

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