The golden run of weather being relished by
holiday-makers has boosted the fire risk in Central Otago and
prompted a total fire ban, which will come into force tonight
''The fire weather indices are telling us the fire danger's
moving into the `very high' category, after the series of
hot, dry, windy days we've had, with more on the horizon,''
Central Otago principal rural fire officer Owen Burgess, of
Alexandra, said last night.
His warning came in the wake of a fire in a Patearoa grain
paddock yesterday afternoon. The fire, which burnt 0.4ha, was
believed to have started from a spark after harvesting
machinery hit a rock.
Ranfurly Fire Brigade deputy chief fire officer David Millar
said the contractor was about halfway through harvesting when
the fire started. The stubble and the remaining unharvested
grain burnt quickly but fortunately it was a calm day and the
fire was brought under control quickly, he said.
''Things are getting very dry and the forecast is for it to
get hotter and hotter.''
Mr Millar said it was the second fire of that nature attended
by the brigade in less than a week. The first fire started as
grain stubble was being ploughed under.
Mr Burgess said although there were several significant
rainfalls throughout the district early in January, it had
been at least two weeks since any rain in some areas, like
''We've had a series of hot, windy days too, so the moisture
is being sucked out and there's a big amount of fuel loading
out there, because of the rain earlier on. The concern is how
rapidly any fire would spread. ''
"It's deceiving, because the countryside looks green but
underneath, things are getting dry and the bigger fires we've
had this summer took hold very quickly,'' he said.
The prohibition on open fires in the urban and rural areas of
Central Otago would remain in force until further notice. Gas
barbecues were permitted but the use of any open flames,
including braziers or solid energy-type barbecues, was
banned. No permits would be issued for fires and the
prohibition also covered Department of
Conservation-administered land and the Naseby Forest, Mr
''There's no sign of any rain on the horizon until at least
next Monday and then it's more likely the rain would be
localised, like thunderstorms, so it wouldn't do much to
lessen the fire risk.''
Last summer was drier early on, and a prohibited fire season
was declared on January 6, 2012.