The fire began in Pidgeon Valley on Tuesday 5 February and currently covers an area of around 2000 hectares. It has affected thousands of Nelson locals and caused widespread damage.

Local New Zealand Red Cross Disaster Welfare and Support Team members were activated on Tuesday 5 February to support New Zealand Police in evacuating people in the immediate path of the fires and to tell others to be prepared in case they need to evacuate, or wanted to evacuate.

“Asking people to leave their homes is never easy – especially when they don’t know if they’ll ever be able to get back into them,” said Disaster Welfare and Support Team Leader Lisa Mellish. “It helps a lot that we are locals and that the people we were asking to evacuate know us.”

Members of our Disaster Welfare and Support Team are also staffing the Civil Defence Centre in Wakefield, which was opened on Tuesday night. The Civil Defence Centre is open for anyone to come for a cup of tea, some food, a chat or to meet family members.

Since the Centre opened there has been a steady flow of incoming residents, most who are seeking information. Jennifer*, an evacuee who made her way to the Civil Defence Centre, said: “The biggest thing is not having information. Not knowing if your house survived.”

She added: “Psychological First Aid is a definite need and something that NZRC is providing at every point." Since evacuations began, Red Cross team members have been providing support to evacuees and residents.

Among their activities Red Cross team members have aided the evacuation of all staff and residents from a retirement village in the affected area (pictured), and have provided psychosocial support on the lines of police cordons for concerned residents.

For media or communications enquiries, contact New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager Ellie van Baaren +6427 541 1267.

*Name changed to preserve anonymity. 

If you are in the affected area

With the state of emergency ongoing, the Civil Defence Centre at Wakefield has closed. Saxton Field Stadium in Stoke is now operating as the Civil Defence Centre. Those who are evacuating should register themselves either at the Centre or by calling 03 543 8400.

How to help

Our highly-skilled Disaster Welfare and Support Teams are available anytime, anywhere, throughout Aotearoa. Your donation will help to enable the effective training and deployment of team members so that we can always be ready to help where the need is greatest.

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