Busy with blazes as heat hits South

Firefighters have been kept busy with a series of call-outs today as hot, dry weather hits Otago.

The most significant was a grass fire on Hunter Rd, near Speargrass Flat Rd, between Queenstown and Arrowtown.

Firefighters from Arrowtown were called to the scene after flames were spotted about 1.30pm, a Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman said.

They remained on scene for more than half an hour, extinguishing the fire, which was "small", he said.

Earlier this morning, firefighters were called to a permitted burn in Dunedin, on Otago Peninsula, this morning, but it was eventually deemed safe and allowed to continue burning, the spokesman said.

"Obviously the farmer had enough resources in play so the decision was made to let it burn.

"They were a bit concerned. They had plenty of resources going, just in case, but it wasn't needed.''

Reports of another behind Logan Park High School turned out to be a "non-event''.

"They couldn't find anything.''

The call-outs came as fine, sunny weather and high temperatures hit the South, prompting a total fire ban in Central Otago and a plea from Fenz for people across Otago and Southland to defer any burning and not to use fireworks.
Very warm temperatures and low humidity were expected to persist until Tuesday, and would dry vegetation and other material, making it very easy to ignite, Fenz warned.

A three-day total fire ban has been declared in Central Otago, starting on Saturday, and activities that could cause sparks - such as grinding, chainsawing and lawnmowing - were also prohibited.

Otago Principal Rural Fire Officer Graeme Still said fires which were normally easy to control became very difficult during extreme fire dangers due to their volatile nature.

"If people have burnt in the last month we are asking them to check to make sure their fires are out as these conditions could fan a fire back into life and transport embers into other dry vegetation.''

Fenz is also asking residents to extinguish any burning fires and not to light any fires during the weekend and Monday, including solid fuel barbecues, campfires, incinerators and hedge trimmings.

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