Call to 'just hang on' over fireworks

After two days of sizzling temperatures, Otago Principal Rural Fire Officer Graeme Still yesterday warned people to "just hang on" before using fireworks in potentially dangerous conditions.

A three-day total fire ban was in place in Central Otago, and activities that could cause sparks - such as grinding, chainsawing and lawn mowing - were also prohibited, he said.

"Just hang on until you get the right conditions," Mr Still warned yesterday.

The fire ban in Central Otago would be reviewed today, and unusually hot conditions had persisted in Otago yesterday, although firefighters had not been as busy with fires as they had been on Saturday, he said.

Some firefighters had not slept well over the weekend because they were worried night-time use of fireworks could spark fires, he said.

Long grass and areas under hedges had continued to dry out over the weekend, and even in areas where fireworks use was not banned, people needed to be cautious and avoid using them if there was any risk of fires being started, he said.

"It's not rocket science. This is all about safety for people," he said.

Fires which were normally easy to control became very difficult to handle during periods of extreme fire danger.

On Saturday night, firefighters extinguished a tussock fire at St Kilda Beach, thought to be caused by fireworks, after being alerted to it at 10.15pm.

Two engines were in attendance near the St Kilda Surf Life Saving Club in John Wilson Ocean Dr.

A Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) spokeswoman said people had been seen letting off fireworks in the area earlier in the night.

Firefighters were kept busy on Saturday with a series of callouts as Otago and Southland were bathed in hot, dry weather.

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

Firefighters from Arrowtown were called to the scene after flames were spotted about 1.30pm, a Fenz spokesman said.

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

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


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