The Richmond fires in the Nelson-Tasman region started on February 5 and, 10 days later, covered 2300 hectares within a 35 kilometre area with an ‘unpredictable’ ferociousness that sparked a State of Emergency.
Over 1000 homes in the path of the fire were evacuated in the Nelson region, affecting 2600 people and numerous animals and stock.
Taylors Contracting, one of the largest civil contractors in the South Island and based in Richmond, has been one of the main contractors helping with the response. The company specialises in earthmoving and civil construction throughout the South Island and has forestry infrastructure and quarry services in and around the area of the fires.
Having a base close to the evacuation area meant Taylors was heavily involved in the State of Emergency.
Director Charlie Taylor (and chairman of Contrafed Publishing which produces this magazine) says while he and his family were not immediately affected by the fires, his youngest daughter was kept from her own house for over a week, and good friends lost their cottage to the flames.
“Civil Defence has prohibited activity in rural areas including earthworks operations. So our normal operations have come to a standstill,” says Charlie.
Taylors Contracting then set up a separate command centre to support the project with heavy equipment and tankers from its depot.
“We are double shifting and hot seating, Charlie said at the time.
“At yesterday’s morning briefing we had 100 people on day shift. This is separate to the firefighters who are briefed at the main command centre.
“At the peak of the firefighting we had under our control 32 items of heavy plant and 28 water tankers.
“Plus we supervised staff in the field and had support staff at base focusing on tracking people and plant and making sure they signed in and out safety. They also managed fatigue PPE, mechanics, refueling, delivering food and water, radio comms and liaised with the incident control centre and civil defence.”
The best part was that there were no injuries to anyone under our control, Charlie adds.