Nelson bush fire: Locals urged to leave homes

Ash is falling in Atawhai, north of Nelson City from a forest fire in Tasman. - Photo: Supplied / Alison Hossain

People living near a large bush fire that's burning near Nelson have been told to evacuate immediately.

The fire broke out mid-afternoon in Pigeon Valley near Nelson - it's now 120 hectares in size and is growing in hot and dry and conditions.

Residents of nearby Eves Valley and surrounding areas have been told to leave their homes.

Teapot Valley residents are being told to get ready to get out, as if the need arises they will not have much time to prepare.

Fire and Emergency crews from around Tasman have been battling the blaze along with six helicopters.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne said about 30 were being evacuated in total, and he was urging people to stay calm.

Emergency services were doing their best in difficult conditions, Mr Kempthorne said.

"It will be hours, if not a day or two, before the fire is completely out. We are so dry at the moment, we're in an extreme fire risk time so it will take a while to get the fire completely out."

Mr Kempthorne said emergency services have set up a centre for welfare, and people could contact the council for more information if they needed.

Eves Valley resident and deputy Tasman mayor Tim King talked to Checkpoint as he was preparing to leave his house and said the fire had got progressively closer over the course of the afternoon.

He said had spent the afternoon packing gear up and police told them to leave about 5pm. He said a lot of friends and family have helped them get irreplaceable things from their house.

Mr King said all he could see is black smoke over the property but no flames and it was still a reasonable distance away, but it was important to evacuate.

"The wind's blowing and I've been involved in rural firefighting over the last 20 years and I know these things can change in a rush so when someone says 'you need to leave', you need to leave."

He said there were only about half a dozen residents in Eves Valley.

Resident Simon Reiter said his property was about 1km away from the blaze and he had been told by police to have a bag packed just in case.

"We've made plans, horse floats are connected onto vehicles and everyone's been allocated what animals they're taking out. We've sort of made those plans to be ready to go as most people in the valley have done."

Mr Reiter said he was worried for friends further up the road who had livestock near the path of the fire.

Teapot Valley resident Abigail Marshall said they rounded up cats, dogs and one hen, and gathered precious possessions after being told to evacuate.

She said the smoke was getting thicker on the valley floor.

"Dad said he saw flames not that long ago from down the valley a bit further. The smoke is definitely getting thicker, we can now see a little bit of smoke at our property, like down at eye level."

Park Manager of Higgins Heritage Park on Pigeons Valley Road, Allan Palmer, said the fire is further up the road, but he is concerned about the wind.

"The south-westerly winds behind it, there's a lot of trees ahead of it, so it doesn't look too good and we are so very very dry, it's the driest we've known it for many years in the Waimeas."

Kayla Lynette Jackson who works at the Wakefield Bakery told Checkpoint there was a lot of smoke coming off the hills.

She said the fire was getting close to her house and there are a lot of nearby farms including two horse farms and a deer farm.

There had not been any rain in the area since December, she said.