A farmer who lost more than 60 sheep to the massive scrub fire rampaging southwest of Nelson has spoken about the horror of putting down burned animals.

Agricultural contractor, TB tester and part-time farmer Steve German had moved 80 breeding ewes and 13 cows and calves from his land at Greenacres Rd – near the eye of the 1600-hectare Pigeon Valley inferno – to graze on land in neighbouring Redwood Valley.

But on Tuesday night, when hot south-west winds fanned a scrub fire started in Pigeon Valley to the south, the fire ripped into Redwood Valley.

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The majority of the animals were killed or mortally-burned in fire that tore through the tinder-dry paddock.

In a lucky stroke, all of the cattle stock survived.

The fire near Nelson has forced hundreds of people to evacuate. Photo / Tim Cuff
The fire near Nelson has forced hundreds of people to evacuate. Photo / Tim Cuff

German was horrified to get into the charred paddock and find so many casualties.

"It was pretty horrible, to say the least," he said.

With the help of firefighters, police officers, and mates, they managed to get the livestock out of the danger zone and back down to his Greenacres Rd property – where he'd been evacuated earlier.

A total of 57 ewes had to be shot, while another four had their throats slit.

He has 14 home alive and recovering, but says more might yet have to be euthanised from burn injuries.

Now, German is trying to arrange a special permit to get access up to the property in Redwood Valley – where the earth is blackened and scorched and surrounds several houses which have had a lucky escape – to check on any remaining animals.


German said it was "an accident waiting to happen", with so much dry grass around. The area hadn't had any rain since Christmas Day.