Total fire ban for South

The sweltering spell of weather that is sitting over the South has led to a total fire ban being imposed in Otago and Southland.

Temperatures have soared in southern areas in recent days, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand today said the fire risk was higher than ever.

A total ban was put in place in Southland yesterday, as temperatures reached a sizzling 32degC.

Restrictions were already in place for some areas in Otago, but from tonight the total ban will be imposed for the entire region, including the Catlins, Clutha, Coastal and Lakes districts.

Fire and Emergency’s Rural Regional Manager, Mike Grant, says conditions have been incredibly dry, and soil moisture levels are very low.

He urged people to be extra vigilant.

"We’ve had a few millimetres of rain here and there over the past six weeks, but the grass and vegetation is still tinder dry," he says.

"That coupled with the extremely hot weather we’ve been having means the fire danger is really high. We had an unprecedented run of hot weather lately, certainly for Invercargill the heat has been record breaking."

Mr Grant says the total fire ban meant people were not allowed to light outdoor fires of any kind, or use charcoal barbecues, braziers or incinerators.

Gas barbecues were allowed, but he said they should be kept in a safe location, off the ground and well away from long grass or anything that could catch alight.

He said people needed to be extremely cautious when doing anything outside that could potentially start a fire.

"We just want people to think about the fire risk before they do stuff, whether it’s mowing the lawns or starting machinery that could send sparks flying, just be mindful of the risk.

"People should even watch where they park their car, all it takes is for a car to pull onto the grass on the side of the road and for the exhaust to set the grass on fire."

A total fire ban remains in place for several regions including Gisborne, Horowhenua, Rangitikei and Marlborough.


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