Conditions spark fire warning

The fire risk in Central Otago is escalating and a total fire ban is likely to be declared ''sooner rather than later'', the district's principal rural fire officer, Owen Burgess, says. A grass fire near Clyde yesterday prompted a warning from Mr Burgess about the dry conditions.

''Things are starting to dry out and it's going to get worse.

''Don't be fooled by a bit of green on top; it's dry underneath,'' he said.

A restricted fire season has been in force since December 7 and Mr Burgess said fire permits would be revoked at midnight on December 23 and no more issued until at least January 7.

The fire risk would be reassessed on that date ''and the way it's going, it'll probably be a closed [prohibited] fire season from then''.

Although there was rain overnight on Monday around Alexandra, it was only 1.4mm, Mr Burgess said.

''We'll need more than that, to do any good.''

About 500sq m of land near Clyde was burnt after a rubbish fire spread yesterday afternoon. Clyde and Alexandra and rural firefighters attended the fire. The property owner had a permit for the fire but investigations were continuing, Clyde chief fire officer Richard Davidson said.