2019 Nelson fires
The 2019 Nelson fires were wildfires in Nelson and Tasman District, New Zealand. Two separate fires, twenty kilometres apart, started on the afternoon of 5 February 2019. Three thousand residents of Wakefield were evacuated as a result of the Pigeon Valley fire. Several other smaller fires started several weeks after the main fires. Two people faced charges of arson in connection with at least one of these. The large main fires were declared "controlled" on 6 March 2019.
|2019 Nelson fires|
Map showing the location of Pigeon Valley in red, nearby Wakefield and Nelson
|Location||Nelson and Tasman District, New Zealand|
|Date(s)||5 February 2019 – 6 March 2019|
|Burned area||2,400 ha (18 February)|
By 9 February 2019, the Pigeon Valley fire was being described as the country's largest since 1955. Also, with 22 helicopters involved, it is New Zealand's largest aerial firefight on record. The fire caused 3,000 people to evacuate their homes and destroyed one house.
On 17 February 2019, a helicopter crashed while fighting the fire in Tasman district, injuring the pilot.
The state of emergency declared on 6 February was extended for another seven days on 19 February.
The final group of about 230 residents evacuated from the Pigeon Valley fire near Nelson were permitted to return to their homes on 21 February. The fire was not completely out and their return was on the understanding that they might be required to leave again at short notice.
On 27 February 2019, a few hours after the state of emergency lapsed, a new fire started at Redwood Valley, outside the boundaries of the existing fire. It covered 5 hectares in area and forced the evacuations of about 97 residents. Firefighters managed to contain it despite strong gusting winds.
The initial large fires were attributed to sparks from (farm) machinery, and there was speculation that the Redwood Valley fire and two other small ones at Rabbit Island and Walter's Bluff were the work of an arsonist.
With the state of emergency lifted, work was continuing on 28 February to put out the fire completely, which it was feared might take weeks or months with conditions "bone dry".
On 6 March 2019, Nelson Tasman Emergency Management Group posted a notification that the Pigeon Valley fire was "controlled" and residents were no longer required to be ready to evacuate. The emergency management group defined a controlled fire as "one that is extinguished around the perimeter and is not moving...[with] a 100 metre cold zone."
A man and a woman appeared in Nelson District Court on 7 March 2019 charged with arson. Several days earlier, forestry workers had seen their car driving away from an area on Dovedale Hill near Nelson and found a fire had broken out. They radioed colleagues who prevented the car from leaving the area and managed to put the fire out. The man faced a second charge over the fire that started near the summit of the Moutere Highway the previous week, which resulted in 97 homes being evacuated.
- "Tasman fire: Government announces more aid for clean-up". RadioNZ – radionz.co.nz. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- "Tasman fires: Nelson, Wakefield evacuated; Pigeon Valley residents must leave homes as fears wind may fan blaze". The New Zealand Herald. 8 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
- "Pigeon Valley Fire Update 4 – State of emergency declared". Tasman District Council. 6 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- "Nelson bush fire live updates: Region in biggest air firefight on record". The New Zealand Herald. 9 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
- Alison Bevege (9 February 2019), New Zealand wildfires show no sign of easing, 3,000 flee, Reuters
- 3,000 evacuated from New Zealand fire could soon return home, Associated Press, 11 February 2019 – via KDWN
- "Nelson bush fire: Helicopter crashes fighting fires in Tasman district". Stuff.co.nz. 17 February 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
- "State of emergency in the Tasman region extended for another week". RadioNZ – radionz.co.nz. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- "Last Nelson wildfire evacuees allowed to return to their homes". Stuff.co.nz. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- "Nelson forest fire live: 97 people evacuated as winds fan new blaze near Nelson". Stuff.co.nz. 27 February 2019. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- "Latest Nelson fire might have been arson". Newshub – newshub.co.nz. 28 February 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- "Tasman transitions to recovery after Pigeon Valley fire". Tasman District Council. 28 February 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
- "Pigeon Valley fire controlled, notice to evacuate lifted". Nelson Tasman Emergency Management Group. 6 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
- "Pair charged with arson over Dovedale Hill fire near Nelson that was moments away from disaster". Stuff.co.nz. 7 March 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
- "Two charged with arson after pursuit near Nelson fire". Stuff.co.nz. 7 March 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2019.