A group of pigs trapped inside the Nelson fire evacuation zone have been saved by authorities who risked their own skin to save the bacon during welfare checks.

But, tragically Tasman farmer Steve German who lost his most of his sheep flock to the blaze also returned after learning one sheep may still be alive, only to find it did not make it.

Animals trapped inside the evacuation area of the Nelson fires are being looked after by the SPCA, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Fire and Emergency NZ who are braving conditions to free trapped animals and keep enough water on site for livestock in the area.

The fire last night grew to 2000ha from 1600ha.


The SPCA National Rescue Unit was touching down in Nelson today to further aid local staff.

The Nelson fire has grown to take in 2000ha. Photo / Aimee Jules
The Nelson fire has grown to take in 2000ha. Photo / Aimee Jules

SPCA Nelson area manager Donna Walzl said SPCA along with Fenz and MPI had been assisting where possible to temporarily rehouse animals.

Walzl, FENZ and MPI had entered the evacuated zone to check on livestock and water.

During their time in the evacuated zone they were tasked with rescuing pigs from a pen but came into trouble after the pen burst into flames making the area too dangerous to stay in.

"We are not sure how it happened, we were working on moving them out and organising getting trailers, the fire service said it was no longer safe for us to stay.

So with little else choice, MPI and SPCA agreed to at least open the pens and let them flee before turning tail themselves.

"They stood a better chance outside than in the pens."

Most animals had adequate water with some areas needing a top up, she said.


SPCA Nelson was currently housing a dozen chickens and a few sheep and had capacity to take on more if needed.

There had been few livestock deaths observed during their visit aside from German who lost his 56 sheep to the fire.

Walzl and the other rescuers brought German back to the site after the farmer claimed one sheep in his flock was still alive.

German had moved 80 breeding ewes and 13 cows and calves from his land at Greenacres Rd – near the eye of the 1600ha Pigeon Valley inferno – to graze on land in neighbouring Redwood Valley.

They eventually found the sheep dead up a hill and German was devastated, she said.

Stoke Vet Clinic team leader Lisa Jamieson said her clinic was put on call to help out the community on Wednesday but did not house any pets until last night.

The clinic was housing four cats and a rabbit which were brought in overnight but were expecting some hunting and pet dogs later today.

"At this stage we are keen to try to accommodate as many as we can within reason, we could take another 6 to 8 cats and 10 dogs, depending if it's overnight or for the day.

"We are happy to help where we can."

She said no animals admitted to the clinic needed any medical attention in relation to the fires but the clinic was on standby if they were needed.