2019 Tasman Fires


Redwood Valley 5 February 2019

Photograph of the fire taken from Redwood Valley looking towards Redwood Park 5 February 2019. Photograph provided by Jane Fairs.

A series of fires between 6 and 27 February 2019 caused significant damage and the evacuation of thousands of people and animals from the Waimea and Moutere areas of Tasman. This included the evacuation of Pigeon Valley, Redwood Valley, Teapot Valley, Eves Valley, Dovedale and Wakefield. Two fires also occurred in central Nelson during this period, also leading to evacuations and fire damage to local parks and forestry.

This series of fires is known collectively as the 2019 Tasman Fires. They are also referred to as the Pigeon Valley Fires, as that is the place where the fires first started.

Fires Timeline


Tuesday 17 December 2018
Date of the last significant rainfall before the fires. Above average temperatures and below average rainfall causes extremely dry conditions and water restrictions across Tasman and Nelson. 

Tuesday 5 February 2019 
A hot, dry and windy day. Around 2.00pm a fire is accidentally started in a paddock in Pigeon Valley by an agricultural contractor using a disc plough. It is thought that the plough struck a stone which caused a spark which set fire to dry grass in the paddock. The fire spreads quickly across the grass to nearby pine trees.

Tuesday 5 February 2019
Despite fire fighters from across the region being deployed, the fire spreads swiftly. Over 170 homes in the Pigeon Valley area, including Redwood Valley, Teapot Valley, Golden Hills Road, Eves Valley and the Eves Valley Saw Mill start to self evacuate or are ordered to evacuate.

Wednesday 6 February 2019  
A State of Local Emergency is declared and the Civil Defence Emergency Operation Centre is activated. Firefighters and other emergency responders from across New Zealand are called in to help.

Wednesday 6 February 2019 
A new fire is deliberately started at Moturoa/Rabbit Island and burns around 10 hectares of forestry before being put out later the same day. Helicopters and fire fighters are called away from the main fire to tackle this new fire. 

Photograph of sheep being evacuated 8 February 2019

Sheep being evacuated 8 February 2019. Photograph provided by Jane Fairs.

Friday 8 February 2019
Wakefield Village is evacuated at 12.50pm due to fears the fire could reach the village and cut off access to the main road. Over 3000 residents, businesses, workers and school students are evacuated and cordons set up at both entrances to the village. Civil Defence, Defence Force personnel and police staff the cordons and patrol the area to protect homes and businesses.

Friday 8 February 2019
A suspicious fire starts in Sir Stanley Whitehead Reserve near Atawhai, Nelson. but it was quickly put out by firefighters.

Friday 8 February 2019
A fire breaks out above Iwa Road, near Walter's Bluff, in Nelson around 3.00pm. 800-900 nearby homes are evacuated for about 4-6 hours. The fire is quickly brought under control but fire crews and a bulldozer remain on the site to extinguish remaining fire.

Monday-Tuesday 11-12 February 2019
Some Wakefield residents and businesses allowed to return from Monday afternoon.

Sunday 17 February 2019
Bill Reid, a helicopter pilot fighting the fires near Pigeon Valley, is taken to hospital with minor injuries after a ‘hard landing’.

Sunday 17 February 2019 
Some Pigeon Valley residents are allowed home, but told to standby in case they need to quickly evacuate again. 14 other evacuated properties were allowed to re-enter the valley for six hours to look after livestock, etc.

Thursday 21 February 2019
The last remaining evacuated residents from Pigeon Valley are allowed to return home.

Wednesday 27 February 2019 
A suspicious fire starts in the Moutere Hills Redwood Valley area. 97 households are evacuated as nearby pine trees catch fire.

Wednesday 27 February 2019   
The State of Local Emergency officially ends. 

6 March 2019
A new fire starts in the Dovedale Hill area, but is quickly extinguished.

6 March 2019
The fires are officially declared under control. 

13 April 2019
A Forest Fire Concert is held at the Richmond Park Showgrounds (A & P Showgrounds) as a thank you to first responders and volunteers who helped fight the fires and also as a fundraising event. Money raised from gate sales went into the Mayoral Relief Fund. 

20 March 2020
A man and a woman are found guilty of arson and attempted arson for setting two of the fires, one on the Moutere Highway and one on Pigeon Valley Rd. The first one saw 97 houses evacuated and damage done to nearby pine trees. The second was quickly extinguished by forestry workers.

2019 Tasman Fires Day 2

Looking across to Redwood Park 6 February 2019. Photograph provided by Jane Fairs.

2019 Tasman fires in numbers

  • 0 human lives were lost. 
  • 1 helicopter pilot was injured. 
  • 1 Home and shed were destroyed.
  • 23 helicopters, 2 fixed wing aircraft and 1 drone deployed by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
  • 23 heavy machines deployed by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
  • 35km fire perimeter.
  • 65%-irrigation allowances for some Tasman growers and farmers is cut by 65% due to the severe drought.
  • 100 applications for money from the Mayoral Relief Fund.
  • 150+ firefighters. 
  • 260 Wakefield School children evacuated and set up in a temporary school at Hope Community Church.
  • 300-400+ volunteers and workers involved in a community support operation based at Saxton Field, Stoke. 
  • 700 livestock and pets were evacuated.
  • 2400ha Fire Area. 
  • 3,000 people evacuated. 
  • 14,000 animals remained on properties exposed to the fire risk. Although many animals were rescued, some were hurt and had to be euthanized including around 50 sheep. 
  • $2.3 million donated by government, the Lottery Grants Board, businesses, communities, groups and individuals to the Tasman District Council Mayoral Disaster Relief Fund.


Sources used in this story

  • Anderson, C. (2021, Feb ). Inferno at Pigeon Valley. North and South, n.412: p.28-39.
  • 41 South.(2020, January).2019 Tasman Fire Event Report. Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management. (CDEM) 2020.
  • Bohny, S.(2019. June 21).Final Fire Payouts on the Way. Nelson Mail, 6.
  • Gamble, W.(2019, August 14).Plough confirmed as cause of massive fire. Manawatu Standard, 10.
  • Gee, S.(2019, February 22).Home at last for all evacuated residents. Nelson Mail,1.
  • In the Line of Fire.(2019, February 9). Nelson Mail, 13.
  • MacManus, J.(2019, February 16).Part-Time Cleaner’s Nelson Fire Heroics. Nelson Mail,16.
  • New Zealand Ministry of Defence. Extreme Fire: a changing threat landscape and implications for New Zealand Defence. https://defence.govt.nz/assets/publication/file/Extreme-Fire-Defence-Assessment.pdf
  • Newman, T.(2020, February 8).Echoes of Pigeon Valley as risk rises. Nelson Mail, 1.
  • O’Connell, T.(2019, May 11).Complacency a Threat to Animals, Says Researcher. Nelson Mail, 4. 
  • Pair found guilty of setting Nelson fires. (2020, 21 March). Dominion Post, A13.
  • Sivignon, C.(2019, March 29).Fire, Drought Costs Piling Up. Nelson Mail, 2.
  • Sivignon, C.(2019, December 20).Lessons from Pigeon Valley Fire. Nelson Mail, 5.

Want to find out more about the 2019 Tasman Fires ? View Further Sources here.

Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.

Comment on this story

Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments

Further sources - 2019 Tasman Fires



  • Anderson, C. (2021, Feb ). Inferno at Pigeon Valley. North and South, n.412: p.28-39. 
  • Arnold, N. (Sep/Oct 2020). Wildfire. New Zealand Geographic, n.166:p.56-73.