Tasman fire: Monster fire leaves paddocks scorched and homes evacuated

What you need to know:

•    Multiple bush fires have broken out near Nelson, including one on Rabbit Island on Wednesday afternoon

•    A state of emergency has been declared

•    The fire has now reached 1870 hectares and homes are being evacuated

•    Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi has flown to Nelson in the wake of the emergency

•    The fire has slowed but weather and wind could still fan the flames

•    Sixteen helicopters are working alongside ground crews to control the fire

•    Seventy-four homes have been officially evacuated, with 150 more self-evacuating

•    All evacuees are asked to report to St John's Church on Edward Street so Civil Defence can record them.

A monster fire has spread through valleys inland from Nelson forcing 170 homes to be evacuated. 

A Civil Defence state of emergency has been declared, and the Defence Force was called in to help fight it. 

Fire tearing through the forest in Pigeon Valley on Tuesday night.
Fire tearing through the forest in Pigeon Valley on Tuesday night. Photo credit: Supplied/ Shaun Mahon

The blaze is centred south of the city and has now covered more than 1900 hectares. 

Farmers were forced to shoot stock ahead of the flames, which scorched almost two thousand hectares near Wakefield. 

The worst of the destruction is in the Eves and Redwood Valleys, where at least two homes have been destoyed.

Community rallies as homes evacuated

Hundreds have been evacuated from Redwood Valley.

When resident Guy Mollett evacuated his property, he turned to capture one last image of the house he thought he was about to lose.

"Took a photo of the house as the flames came over the hill, and thought I'd be coming back to a charred shell today," Mr Mollett says.

He and his family have found refuge with family friends.

Other evacuees have fled to St John Church in Wakefield, a centre offering food, water or a place to rest. Many hotels and motels across the region have opened doors to evacuees free of charge.

"Anything we can do to help, we certainly want to do," Motueka Hotel owner Vincent Sibbald says. "This community has been so good to us."

Just after midnight at Pigeon Valley, half an hour from Nelson's CBD, Shaun Mahon filmed the inferno while evacuating his girlfriend's home.

"It was pretty worrying not knowing what way the fire was going to go because the wind was quite bad up there," he says.

Many residents are still unaware how their homes fared.

Meanwhile, more than 20 horses have been brought to the local raceway for refuge.

An aerial view of the fire near Nelson.
An aerial view of the fire near Nelson. Photo credit: Supplied/ Rui Ventura

Newshub was granted access inside the cordon at Redwood Valley. The surrounding hills have been left scorched, and homes weren't quite in the clear yet.

Some firefighters have been on the job since Tuesday afternoon. Today, sixteen helicopters with monsoon buckets were fighting the fire.

Firefighter Chris Poultley says the fire has been hard to track.

"There's been no rhyme or reason to some of the patterns. In some areas it has taken the grass, in some it has taken the trees."

Fire officials will continue to attack the blaze through the night.

Fire Commander Grant Haywood says the weather will dictate their approach.

"... the wind's picking up and that's going to change how my rural colleagues are dealing with the incident."

The sun sets behind smoke from the fires near Nelson.
The sun sets behind smoke from the fires near Nelson. Photo credit: Supplied/Jack Burden

Livestock perish

While residents were lucky to escape, many livestock weren't. Farmers were forced to shoot some of their stock because the flames were moving too fast to get them to safety.

Those that survived were left with little grass to eat.

Farmer Steve German spent the afternoon rallying locals to get animals to safety.

"We have to do a muster shortly and try and get what we can out," he says.

Crews will remain in place across the Nelson region on Wednesday night. This fire could burn for days, and the task right now is getting it contained.