New Zealand wildfire: Thousands of people evacuated near Nelson

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New Zealand wildfire: Thousands of people evacuated near Nelson

New Zealand's weather has not been as extreme, although it did experience a heatwave over the last few days of January.

The Pigeon Valley fire covers 2,300 ha (5,700 acres) with a 25 km (15 mile) perimeter, NZ Civil Defence said in a statement on its website.

Fires started on Monday and Tuesday and quickly spread.

New Zealand Defence Force firefighters combat the Richmond fire near Nelson, South Island, New Zealand February 8, 2019.

The regional police commander, Zane Hooper, confirmed they had successfully completed "the orderly evacuation of Wakefield", while fire chief John Sutton said the critical danger point could come on Sunday.

"I'm anxious about tomorrow, to be honest", Sutton said.

Though no serious injuries have been reported, one house burned down earlier in the week.

"Our most significant efforts are now focused on a fire front near Wakefield which is moving slowly downslope", Fire and Emergency said.

However, he warned that the fight was not over.

"There's still an enormous amount of heat there are and there are a lot of unburned areas", he said. "So although we might be turning a corner, there will be firefighters working on that fire until well into March".

New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager Ellie van Baaren said evacuees were exhausted and frustrated. Some livestock has also been moved to safety.

Investigators believe that a contractor ploughing a paddock in Pigeon Valley accidentally started the blaze.

About 190 firefighters, 10 helicopters and two planes have been deployed to battle the fire.

"There's a high risk that what we end up with is a more flammable landscape that is more vulnerable to fire", George Perry, professor of environmental science at the University of Auckland, told the Guardian.

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