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LIVE: Wakefield residents affected by Tasman fire readying for possible return home later today

That wraps up this article of our live coverage of the Tasman fire. For ongoing live coverage of the event click here

There’s a chance some residents evacuated from their homes may soon be allowed to return. Source: 1 NEWS

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne made the comments during a press conference about the fire today. Source: 1 NEWS

What you need to know:

  • A large fire that started near Nelson on Tuesday afternoon has destroyed at least one home and resulted in thousands of evacuations.
  • The fire was declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and the status has remained.
  • A makeshift animal shelter has been set up for pets at the Richmond A&P grounds.
  • Evacuees are asked to register at the Civil Defence Centre at Saxton Stadium in Stoke, or phone 03 543 8400.
  • If you are in the fire area, you can email or send us photos to news@tvnz.co.nz.

1.43pm - The Tasman District Council has released the following statement:

"This week we have a specialist company helping us find water leaks in our council water supplies. Detection Services will have two staff in the Brightwater area this week. They will be listening for leaks and marking up the ground with paint where they find them. Their vehicles have Detection Services written on them and they wear high–vis jackets. They often work at night when it’s quieter and the water use is less.  If your water meter is down a private driveway, they may access it, otherwise they will not be coming onto private property.

If you see any water leaks on any scheme, please continue to report them to us immediately. The lack of rain has resulted in the ground drying out which has increased leakage in some areas. Leaks are fixed as soon as possible, usually with one or two days. Where there is a backlog of work, the largest leaks ones are prioritised."

1.11pm - A Nelson pizza cafe owner says she has no choice but to help those evacuated from the Nelson fire, saying "if you can, you must". You can read and watch more on that story here.

12.30pm - SPCA are offering free microchipping to all animals affected by the Tasman fire over the next few days.

If evacuees have their animals microchipped, it will help to reunite them with their pets if they go missing, the organisation posted on Facebook.

12.25pm - "It's really encouraging to know that we're very close to residents in Wakefield being able to return home," for Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said. 

He asked people not from the area to not "go for a look". He asked residents of other areas not returning home to "please be patient".

"It's tremendous to get to this stage. We are really looking forward to everybody being able to return home," Mr Kempthorne said. "We know that people really want to go home home, but equally it has to be in safety, in safe conditions."

12.20pm - All the hot-spots are still within the control line, about 2km from Wakefield, Fire and Emergency NZ regional manager John Sutton said. But they had been there for three days now.

Conditions today are turning out to be as forecast, and no "elevated fire behaviour" is expected, he said.

12.15pm - The community meetings at 5.30pm at Appleby School and 7.30pm at Hope Church will still go ahead.

Watch the video for today’s 8.30am press conference on the fire. Source: 1 NEWS

12.10pm - Police Acting District Commander Zane Hooper asked people to prepare for possible re-entry, but asked people do not return to the area until announced.

"We will provide further advise at 4pm as to what they need to do to be prepared," Mr Hooper said. "But our other message would be, please don't start making your way to Wakefield. the decision hasn't been finally made and there's still a lot of things that can happen between now and 4 o'clock."

However, vulnerable residents who were evacuated early by St John will not be allowed to return home. Those residents will be contacted by the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board for instruction on their return, Mr Hooper said.

People who are not residents will not be allowed in the area, and authorities will be patrolling this.

In total there are about 3000 evacuees.

12.05pm - Civil Defence incident controller Roger Ball said Wakefield residents are likely to return home later today if criteria is met.

The final decision will be made at 4pm today if it is safe to do so. Residents will then be able to return from 5pm.

Safety will be the main consideration, taking into account the fire behaviour, weather and the ability of the emergency services to evacuate the town safely and quickly, should conditions change.

If people are allowed home, they would have to be ready to leave again if needed, Mr Ball said.

More information on the return home would be released later if the decision for people to go home goes ahead, he said.

The Valley areas will not be able to return.

"At this stage we are not able to say when that can happen, except that it will not be today," Mr Ball said. "This is because those areas have been affected by the fire so arranging for the safe return of residents is more complex."

11.50am - Nelson doctors are not going to be part of the nationwide strike this week.

The New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association has lifted the strike notice in Nelson as Tasman fires continue.

"The community as a whole is under significant stress; many staff members have been affected by the bush fires, putting hospital staffing under pressure," Dr Deborah Powell, National Secretary, said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the people of Nelson during this difficult time.

The third strike will take place as planned throughout the rest of New Zealand from 8am on Tuesday until 8am on Thursday.

11.35am - The Minister of Social Development is urging anyone experiencing hardship because of the fire to get in touch with MSD on 0800 559 009. The contact centre is running extended hours for fire related inquiries.

"MSD is here to support those affected by the Nelson/Tasman fires, with urgent or unexpected costs – it could be anything from petrol or medical costs to assistance in the event of a workplace being closed," Carmel Sepuloni said in a statement.

"I also advise anyone in the area who’s affected by the Nelson/Tasman fires to keep a close check on social media, as MSD is providing regular updates on opening hours and any extra assistance available through Facebook and Twitter," Carmel Sepuloni said.

10.40am - Civil Defence is updating media on the fire at 12pm today.

10.15am - "If a decision is made to allow people to go back into Wakefield, it would be subject to conditions," Civil Defence incident controller Roger Ball reiterated in a statement.

"We expect all houses to have their ‘go-bags’ by the front door for the future. All residents must be ready to evacuate should the situation change," he said, if evacuees are allowed home.

However, people did not have to go home and livestock are able to stay at the showgrounds if residents choose to.

"The fire is not contained yet and the situation could change very quickly - that is why if re-entry occurs it will be conditional," Mr Ball said. "We believe the best place for people in this situation is in their own home so that is what we are working towards."

10.05am - Two public meetings for residents affected by the fire will be held at this evening - 5.30pm at Appleby School and 7.30pm at Hope Church.

9.30am - Fire managers flew heat-seeking drones over the fire ground overnight and only a small number of hot-spots were found then managed by firefighters, Civil Defence said in a statement. 

Weather conditions for the next few days remain benign with warm temperatures and light winds - ideal for firefighters, the statement says.

9.10am - MP Damien O'Connor praised authorities for the "incredibly well co-ordinated effort" during the past few days.

"From a central government perspective, we are aware that there will be a need for ongoing resources," Mr O'Connor said.

There would be no shortage of resources for both people and animals, he told media.

9.05am - Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthrone said the progress was "really encouraging".

"For everybody who's been evacuated, it's been a really stressful time," he said. "Everyone involved in this event understands it, so do I.

"I can totally get that people are concerned if they are out of their house. It's very unsettling."

Mr Kempthorne said it was important to get people back home, but making sure it was safe was the priority.

"My encouragement would be to please be patient. Thank you for your patience to date."

Both within and from outside the community, there had been an outpour of support for everyone involved, he said.

9.00am - MPI's Charlotte Austin said the organisation is continuing to care for animals behind the cordon where they could.

The team had access to parts of Eves Valley, Teapot Valley and Redwood Valley yesterday. "We have fed and watered as many animals as we could in those areas in the timeframe," Ms Austin said.

About 100 sheep were evacuated from Eves Valley yesterday, as well as high-priority animals from Wakefield. About 200 birds were among those removed from Wakefield.

"Where possible we are tending to animals in place as this is less stressful for animals, particularly stock animals," Ms Austin said.

At the makeshift shelter at the Richmond A&P ground, there are still more than 300 animals, but Ms Austin asked people who did not have reason to be at the grounds to stay away.

8.50am - The State of Emergency is due to expire on Wednesday, but it will be reviewed tomorrow, Civil Defence says.

8.45am - "There'll be firefighters working on that fire well into March," FENZ spokesman says.

8.40am - FENZ spokesman John Sutton said yesterday was a good, productive day for firefighters and it continued overnight.

Locals would have noticed dew on the ground from humidity which meant less fuel for the fire, Mr Sutton said.

The threat from forecast strong winds has yet to eventuate, but authorities remain on edge. Source: 1 NEWS

"Our focus for the moment is moving more into the fire ground and concentrating on removing heat and trying to widen the containment all around the fire. We've made significant progress getting through yesterday and I hope we get through today," he said.

"I get the feeling that we're starting to turn a corner."

8.35am - Fire bans for using heavy machinery is continuing to avoid fire risks, and authorities are asking people to use common sense.

8.30am - Civil Defence group controller Roger Ball said due to good progress, authorities were working on a plan for access back into Wakefield.

If people are allowed home, it would be on the basis that they remain alert and ready to leave, Mr Ball said.

Eves Valley, Teapot Valley, Redwood Valley and Pigeon Valley were also being actively assessed.

"We understand that the best location for people is in their own homes and we are trying to facilitate that as soon as possible."

8.10am - People needing stock food are asked to call Federated Farmers on 0800 327 646, option 2.

They will be put through to a live database which is accessed by Federated Farms and MPI.

Stock feed is coming from all over the South Island.

8.05am - Wakefield School will be open today in temporary classrooms at the Hope Community Church on Ranzau Road.

Nelson Coachlines have organised a school bus service for today.

School will run from 9am to 3pm. 

8.00am - Today, the plan for firefighters is to head back into the valleys to attack the fire and dampening down hot-spots.

They will be making the most of lower winds and fine weather.

7.35am - Authorities are expected to update media at 8.30am.

7.25am - No cases of looting had been reported in the fire area, but police acting area commander for Tasman Zane Hooper assured the public there was a big police and New Zealand Defence Force presence in the area.

"I hope that sends a message to those who might want to undertake such activity, that it will not be tolerated and we will deal with it swiftly and fastly."

Mr Hooper also reminded the public to be vigilant because although flames weren't as visible compared to previous days, the fire was still strong.

7.15am - Police acting area commander for Tasman Zane Hooper said overnight police and the New Zealand Defence Force continued reassurance patrolling the Wakefield area, but there were no further evacuations.

It was "a significant undertaking" to have evacuated up to 3000 people from about 600 homes in Wakefield, Mr Hooper said.

"The community were outstanding in supporting us doing that," Mr Hooper said.

7.00am - Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said "the main enemy of firefighting is wind", but was thankful of good weather conditions faced overnight and forecast for coming days.

The Tasman region was so "tinder dry" wind could spread fire quickly, Mr Kempthorne said.

"The risk is still there so nobody should expect that the risk has suddenly dropped or is dropping away, but I think it's being very carefully managed," he said. "The people who live there, and work there, and bsuinesses - that is forefront of the authorities minds."

6.55am - Civil Defence has said some firefighters are so passionate they don't want to go home.

Firefighters from as far as Stewart Island and Northland are among those working on the fire.

They are working on three and four day shifts then getting time out. Civil Defence is making sure crew are well-rested, fed and hydrated before going back in.

6.45am - Dust covered streets, debris, smoke and fumes, is just part of what firefighters are experiencing behind the cordon of the fire.

Wind roared through the forest yesterday afternoon as gusts picked up, adding challenge to those battling the blaze.

6.35am - "Things are looking brighter here in Nelson this morning," 1 NEWS reporter Nicole Bremner told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

It was a clear day and the dreaded strong winds were being kept at bay for now, she said.

6.30am - Light southerly winds are expected this morning, but gusts are expected to pick up later with stronger winds predicted, FENZ regional manager John Sutton told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

"It was supposed to be quite an event yesterday but we got through it well so that's added to our confidence today," Mr Sutton said.

He hoped there would be no further evacuations today, and weather indicated they shouldn't have to, he said.

6.20am - Fire and Emergency NZ regional manager John Sutton said it was a good night overnight with light winds and high humidity.

"That's helped incredibly," he said, but the fire is still active.

However, he still expects firefighters to be working at the scene for about a month.

"There will be an end to the firefighting but it'll be a long process to actually extinguish the fire. I could see firefighters being here for a month yet."

6.05am - A Civil Defence briefing is underway to plan how firefighters will attack the blaze today.

6.00am - The usual fees for GP visits and pharmacy prescriptions will be waived for fire-related appointments. Civil Defence has information for each centre online here.

5.55am - Firefighters are heading into day 7 fighting the blaze in the Tasman District, which at last estimate was about 2300 hectares.