Drizzle fails to remove fire risk

Steady drizzle may have rained off the cricket in Dunedin but it failed to dampen more than the central city, leaving the rest of the area in extreme fire risk.

The rain had not spread to the Strath Taieri and the northern coast of the city by yesterday afternoon, leaving rural fire staff maintaining a close watch on fire indicators in those areas.

By 5pm only 4.8mm of rain had fallen in Dunedin and 1.8mm at the airport, well short of the last significant rainfall of 23mm in early February.

Rural fire officer Graeme Still said the Strath Taieri and northern coast of the city were at high to extreme fire risk.

''We're monitoring the situation very closely.''

Mr Still said the Department of Conservation and Waitaki and Clutha councils would reassess the situation, including the long-range forecast, tomorrow. If no significant rain was forecast it was likely a prohibited fire season would be declared.

Even with yesterday's rain, if the wind returned it would be ''back to square one'' in the city.

At least 25mm to 40mm of rain was needed before the fire risk would decrease, he said.

While not out of the ordinary, the area's dryness could become more of a problem if no rain fell before the frosts of April which would dry the ground out further.

Yesterday's rain did provide some relief for the city's water supplies.

Dunedin City Council water production manager Gerard McCombie said the cool weather had reduced demand by about 12%, easing pressure during the repairs to the Deep Stream pipeline.

''It has definitely dampened down the garden demand.''

As the rain had not reached that far inland, the repair work had been able to continue this week.

It would reopen today to allow farmers to top up their stock water systems before possibly being shut down again next week, depending on contractors' progress, he said.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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