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LIVE: Evacuation order in place for Moturoa/Rabbit Island as separate Nelson blaze breaks out

What we know so far:

  • The massive fire started in a forestry area in Nelson shortly after 2pm yesterday.
  • At the last estimate the fire was 1870 hectares, with a perimeter of 20km.
  • Civic Defence declared a state of emergency in the Nelson – Tasman region due to the fire in Pigeon Valley.
  • Several houses are believed to have been lost in Redwood Valley and Eve Valley and more than 170 homes evacuated

4:20pm - The wind is starting to pick up in Nelson as Fire and Emergency NZ Tasman area commander Grant Haywood told media a short time ago that this size of fire had "not been seen in decades".

"Talking to our colleagues within our rural sector, they’re saying at the moment this is probably the equivalent to the fires in the early (19)80s in the Maitai area," he told media.

3:52pm - It has confirmed that 92 people are currently battling the various blazes in the Nelson area.

3:40pm - Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi told media a short time ago that the fire was 1900 hectares in total. He paid tribute to fire crews for saving a number of homes that were just metres away from the fire.

Civil Defence posted this graphic estimating the extent of the Pigeon Valley Fire as at 3pm. Source: 1 NEWS

3:38pm - A Fire and Emergency spokesperson told 1 News around a dozen firefighters are at the scene of the fire on Rabbit Island.

The fire service were alerted to signs of fire at 2.30pm, she said.

Fire crews from Nelson, Brightwater and Richmond have been sent to the scene.

The fire is burning pine trees and is currently 50m by 50m in size.

The spokesperson said two fire engines, three tankers and three helicopters are being used at the scene.

3:30pm - An evacuation notice is in place for people in the Moturoa and Rabbit Island area, as well as Rough Island, to leave immediately.

Regarding the Pigeon Valley fire, Civil Defence expects that it will be two or three days before people can return to their homes.

They also warned people to "stay away from the fire area – we’re had reports that onlookers are blocking roads and smoking on the sides of roads while watching the fire."

"Please don’t drive up any of the affected roads as you may not be able to turn around and you will hinder the firefighting effort as well as posing a fire risk yourself."

3:20pm - Fire crews have arrived on the scene at the Rabbit Island fire. As a result of the fire, the Airport perimeter walking track has been closed until further notice. 

3:05pm - A fire has broken out on Rabbit Island. Smoke can be seen coming from the island on a number of photos posted to a local Facebook page by locals.

2.55pm - As a result of the Pigeon Valley fire, the following roads are closed, Nelson Tasman Civil Defence has said.

  • Pigeon Valley Road at fire station to the last driveway before seal n Dovedale (approx. 381 Dovedale Road).
  • Moutere Highway from Redwood Rd to Waimea West Road intersection
  • Eves Valley Road
  • Teapot Road
  • Golden Hills Road at Moutere Highway intersection
  • Golden Hills Road at Challies Road intersection
  • Intersection of Redwood Valley Road and Redwood Valley Lane
  • Green Acres Road
  • Mailing Road

2.45pm - With the Nelson area enduring near-drought like conditions, finding water has become a challenge for firefighters as they battle the blaze, per RNZ.

1 NEWS reporter Kaitlin Ruddock was at the scene. Source: 1 NEWS

1.50pm - Minister of Civil Defence Kris Faafoi and Damien O’Connor, the MP for West Coast Tasman, have touched down in Nelson, visiting the Emergency Coordination Centre for a briefing before a media stand-up at 3.15pm.

The ministers will now head to the forward control point where they will speak with forward staff and hope to be able to fly over the site.

A 1 News reporter at the scene says the blaze is still fierce in the Nelson-Tasman region. Source: 1 NEWS

1.15 - Nelson Tasman Civil Defence posted this message on their website a short time ago.

"All residents evacuated or self-evacuated are asked to report to the Civil Defence Centre at St John’s Church, Wakefield to register. The Centre can provide welfare information and help with accommodation for those who need it. For those who can’t make it to the centre, please call 03 543 8400 to register by phone."

"Residents who evacuate should take essential items such as food, clothing and medication and make provision for livestock and pets. Keep an eye on our Facebook pages to get see updates on the fire, more information on the cordons and if it is safe to return to your home."

12.45 - Civil Defence said about 170 homes have been evacuated.

"Although the growth of the fire has slowed with the lower temperatures and more moisture in the air this morning, the situation could change quickly if the temperatures and wind climb," the organisation said in a statement. 

Ground crews are at work in Eves Valley, Redwood Park and Pigeon Valley areas, and 16 helicopters are working to protect homes and manage the fire. Bulldozers are also working on containment lines in key areas.

Fire in nelson last night. Source: Supplied by Molly Floyd

Civil Defence also advised livestock needing to be evacuated due to the Pigeon Valley Fire can be accommodated at the Richmond Showgrounds.

Horses, sheep and goats can be accommodated in empty stables. People are asked to use the Campground Gate to the Showgrounds and follow the road to the stable blocks.

"Please leave your name and contact number on the stable door and provide food for your animals. There is water available onsite," the statement says.

12.05 - Melissa Floyd, at Wakatu Lodge looking after evacuees, says people are shaken and have their worldly possessions in their vehicles.

They're waiting to find out what the outcome of their homes will be, she said.

12.00 - 1 News reporter Kim Baker Wilson is at the scene and says conditions are still fierce. The fire is expected to burn until at least the end of the week.

11:20 -  Nelson Airport New Zealand says there's still no disruption to flights. 

10.45 - Tasman-Marlborough Fire Area posted to Facebook thanking people for the hundreds of kind offers of food, assistance, water tankers and places of safety for animals.

"I understand the lack of immediate information is frustrating, these are your homes, your lives, your animals, all that you may own," the post says, addressing concerned locals. "We are doing our best, and information over such a large fire front can be challenging to obtain and confirm. Please, be patient."

9.45 - NIWA says extreme dryness in the Nelson and Tasman regions allowed for dry vegetation to act as "fuel" in the Nelson area fire.

9.30 - Animal Evac New Zealand estimates 4,560 animals in a 3 kilometre radius of Pigeon Valley, where the fire is still uncontrolled.

There are about 1600 homes, and it is estimated there are more than 900 cats, 600 dogs, 150 fish and 130 birds.

The organisation earlier advised people, "Remember it takes longer than you think to evacuate, especially horses etc. So think ahead, evacuate early, or at least bring your companion animals inside and prepare get away cages/kits in case you do have to evacuate. MPI know we are here to help."

9.05 - Nelson resident Rob Bradley, who has been evacuated, told 1 NEWS he doesn't know what he will return home to after the ordeal.

The fire started beside his property and it "took off over the fields and started heading up", Mr Bradley said.

"The wind was blowing away from my property so we were holding okay as long as the wind was blowing in the right direction," he said. "But then it was creeping along the front of my perimeter fences so then they decided they would evacuate us."

He praised the work of the Civil Defence as "just great".

"They took us in, they fed us and got us accommodation in the Wakatu Lodge."

Mr Bradley said the fire went straight up the face of the forestry opposite his house and headed over towards Eves Valley.

"There was only the two choppers to start with but they’ve slowly brought more," he said.

"We really don’t know what we’re going back to this morning. As far as we understand we’ll have to report to the Civil Defence and they’ll make the call whether we can get back in to the property."

9.00 - Nelson Tasman Civil Defence controller Roger Ball said the organisation's priorities today are to look ahead and plan for various scenarios.

Further Civil Defence Centres may need to open, he said.

"Just a reminder to the public that if they do evacuated from their homes, either because they are asked to or because they are doing so by their own judgement, please make sure to take your essential items - food, water, clothing, medicines, take care of your pets, either take them with you or provide from them in some other way."

He also advised people who are staying away to let friends and family know of their plans, or contact the Civil Defence Centre set up at St Johns Anglican Church on Edwards Street in Wakefield.

8.45 - NZ Police acting district commander Inspector Zane Hooper said police supported fire and emergency NZ in evacuating 150 properties.

Five roads had been cordoned off, and those roads were evacuated, he said. Police are also in a process of evacuating further properties in the Pigeon South area.

Mr Hooper warned people in the area to be aware of the environment today, be prepared to evacuate if needed and to have access to radio or cellphones or other ways to get messages.

A view of Nelson's bushfire taken from Richmond just after midnight.
A view of Nelson's bushfire taken from Richmond just after midnight. Source: Kaleb Johnston Photography

8.35 - Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne got emotional talking about the 'tremendous' efforts of firefighters. 

8.30 - Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne declared a Civil Defence Emergency in the Tasman.

Declaration gives emergency services the power to operate, he said. "This is a horrendous fire."

He was personally affected with family property in the area. "I was amazed to see how that fire spread with the wind."

8.15 - Fire and Emergency incident controller Ian Reade said it is not known how many homes have been lost because it is too smoky, and too risky for firefighters at this stage.

Firefighters battled "extreme fire behaviour" at the Tasman Pine Forests, he said. "There was no way we could have stopped that fire yesterday afternoon and last night."

All crews working on the fire were local so far, with help of forestry contractors, but firefighters from throughout the country, as well at Department of Conservation personnel were being brought in today, Mr Reade said.

Today, fire crews would be operating a massive air attack, setting up containment lines and using heavy machinery to put in fire breaks.

"Overnight we had 12 crews and they did an excellent job of protecting structure and I think we really owe those people out there some thanks for what they've done," Mr Reade said.

Twelve new crews been briefed and are getting to work, he said. "Our priority is life," he said, of making sure firefighter safety was put first.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but a fire investigator would be on site today. There is no reason to believe the fire is suspicious at this stage, Mr Reade said.

7.35 - Tasman-Marlborough Fire Area posted to Facebook saying there are reports of several houses destroyed in Eves and Redwood Valleys, however it is not yet confirmed.

"The wind has shifted to a Northerly, which is currently keeping the fire somewhat at bay, however this is still a very serious and dangerous event," the post says.

Night crews have been working hard to protect residential properties in the Redwood Valley Area, and keeping the fire from spreading to Eves Mill.

7.30 - Nelson Airport posted to Facebook saying flights were still operating as scheduled, despite a lot of smoke in the area. People are asked to contact the airport directly or check the website for more information.

7.25 - Earlier on TVNZ1's Breakfast programme this morning Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne told residents to keep safe as the fire spreads. He wasn't aware of how many homes had been destroyed. "It was just an awful spectacle to see it spread," he said.

A welfare centre has been set up for evacuees to register at St John’s Church, Wakefield. The centre will also provide more information and help with accommodation for those in need. For those who can’t make it to the centre, please call 03 543 8400 to register by phone.

Richard Kempthorne told TVNZ1’s Breakfast residents should keep safe as the fire spreads. Source: Breakfast

Emergency services have been battling a massive blaze near Nelson after it broke out after 2pm yesterday.

Since the fire broke out several homes have been lost and residents near the fire have been evacuated.

Helicopters and planes have been brought in to help fight the blaze which is expected to burn for days.

The fire in this new location broke out today as crews continue to tackle the Pigeon Valley blaze. Source: 1 NEWS