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As of midnight tonight, Central Otago will have a prohibited fire season in force, Central Otago principal rural fire officer Owen Burgess said yesterday.
Central Otago has been in an unofficial ban since December 23, when all permits were revoked, and since then, no new ones had been issued.
Mr Burgess said this total fire ban would cover the urban and rural areas of Central Otago as well as Department of Conservation land and that of the Southern Rural Fire Authority, which is responsible for the Naseby Forest.
"The only thing people can use is gas barbecues."
He said the timing was a bit later than usual due to the higher rainfall in winter and spring. However, that rainfall had caused grass to grow high and, as there had been very little rain last month, things had "got a lot drier".
"A fire can happen at any stage," Mr Burgess said. "All firefighters are on edge."
He said signs informing of the ban would be erected on main roads into towns and the fire-risk indicator boards at Tarras and near Butchers Dam would be changed to reflect the "very high" risk.