Pigeon Valley Fire update 67 - 13:30 hours 21/02/2019

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Pigeon Valley Fire update 67 - 13:30 hours 21/02/2019

Residents returning but risk remains

Residents from the last 83 homes which remained evacuated after the Pigeon Valley Fires were able to return to their homes today under conditional access but Civil Defence Controller Alec Louverdis says people near the fire zone need to be prepared to evacuate again if needed.

Access was granted through the cordons to residents and essential personnel only from 8am this morning.

“This is not over,” Mr Louverdis says. “We are still in a state of emergency, we still have a fully-resourced 24/7 emergency operations centre, and we still have hundreds of personnel deployed on firefighting and support activities.

“We have been working to get individuals and families back into their homes but the fires aren’t out. As we continue firefighting operations we are keeping a close eye on the emerging weather pattern in the days ahead. We expect strong winds and little rain in coming days, particularly on Sunday but the wind patterns are erratic and changeable.”

Fire and Emergency Incident Controller Rory Renwick says the situation remains volatile.

“There are still ignition sources, lots of dry timber and underground burning. Our teams have done great work to create a fire perimeter but they have a 35km border to manage. At any moment conditions could change,” he says.

Rory Renwick and Alec Louverdis paid tribute to the residents, the community and the hundreds of volunteers from the local area and throughout New Zealand who are assisting with the response.

“Today is a good day as we progress towards recovery but we ask that people remain vigilant. We understand it’s not an easy time for people living in the affected areas and we assure them we are taking whatever steps we can to ensure their safety and security at this time,” Mr Louverdis says.

Please Note:
Today's access is conditional only. We understand friends and family of residents, and others, would like to enter the cordons but the situation remains highly changeable. All residents are aware they may need to be evacuated again at short notice should the fires flare up again, particularly given the strong winds we expect in coming days.

For the safety of residents and our response teams, and to focus on critical firefighting activity, we must minimise the numbers of people within the cordon. Exceptional circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis only. We thank for your patience and understanding.
 

Ends.

Media Contact: 027 703 0409
Nelson Tasman Civil Defence and Emergency Management