26 Dec 2019

Fire and Emergency urge caution with widespread fire restrictions

11:45 am on 26 December 2019

The next few weeks in the South Island are shaping up to be like the 2014/15 fire season, when drought like conditions brought on a total fire ban.

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The aftermath of a blaze in Central Otago in spring. Photo: Supplied / Fire and Emergency

Canterbury experienced two large fires in that time in Hamner and Flock Hill.

Principal rural fire officer for North Canterbury, Bruce Janes, said it had been a wet spring which helped vegetation grow quickly.

Warm westerly weather will dry that vegetation out rapidly from now, he said.

People could expect the fire danger to go up to high, very high or even extreme in a matter of days.

Fire and Emergency said people in the South Island must let it know if they were planning on doing burnoffs.

There had already been a spate of unnecessary callouts for controlled burns, it said.

Shift manger Lyn Crossan said fire restrictions covered most of the island so permits were required for burnoffs.

Crossan said it was dry in many parts of the South Island but thankfully, it wasn't too hot or windy.

Meanwhile, Otago's top rural firefighter is urging common sense and caution during the holiday period. Large grass fires hit the region even before summer arrived.

Graeme Still said the fire danger was relatively low at present, but that could change quickly if strong winds dried out vegetation.

Still said people should enjoy their holidays, but needed to take precautions and ensure fires were out before leaving a site.

Fire and Emergency said last summer, out-of-control land-clearing and camping fires contributed to the destruction of 2070 hectares of bird habitat.

In addition, sparks from machinery and equipment caused wildfire that destroyed 2655 hectares of bird habitat.

Campfires played a part in the destruction of 4725 hectares of bird habitat, according to Fire and Emergency.

You can check the fire danger in your area by using NIWA's fire weather website.

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