Firefighters braced for gales today

Another bout of strong winds and hot, dry weather forecast for today has Otago firefighters on the alert.

The weather conditions were likely to be a pared down version of the front that passed through last week, which ''definitely'' helped spread the flames of rural blazes, Otago Rural Fire Authority deputy principal rural fire officer Graeme Still said.

''We've stuck out some notifications about it, [asking] people to be careful. We're a wee bit concerned with these strong winds, but it's not something out of the norm.''

A MetService ''weather watch'' for Otago warned of

gusts of up to 100kmh in exposed places, meteorologist Lisa Murray said yesterday.

The weather pattern was characterised by warm, dry air flowing over the mountains.

The lack of moisture, along with strong winds, could help turn a small fire into a bigger one, she said.

Strong northwesterly winds followed by cooler temperatures and southwesterly winds were ''a very spring-like pattern''.

''[We see this] in a typical spring-like El Nino pattern.''

Cooler temperatures and southwesterly winds would trail the front as it passed through the region this afternoon and into tomorrow, Ms Murray said.

The temperature in Dunedin is forecast to reach 22degC today but tomorrow's high is only expected to be 13degC.

Less of a change is forecast for inland Otago, with Queenstown's highs staying at 17degC today and tomorrow, before dropping to 13degC on Sunday.

Mr Still said fire crews would be on high alert today and standby crews would be ready to go at short notice.

Anyone who had lit a fire within the past two weeks was urged to double-check it was fully extinguished, and lighting outdoor fires was not recommended.

Authority principal rural fire officer Stephanie Rotarangi said firefighters would be regularly patrolling Dunback and Saddle Hill, two areas affected by large fires last week.

Fire stations and all landowners in those areas had been notified.

carla.green@odt.co.nz

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