Heightened risk sparks fire season change for coast

Dry conditions in the Waitaki district have heightened the fire risk along the east coast in the...
Dry conditions in the Waitaki district have heightened the fire risk along the east coast in the region. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
The coastal Waitaki area will move to a prohibited fire season from Monday until further notice.

A prohibited season means no outdoor fires are allowed.

Declaring the fire season change, Fire and Emergency New Zealand district manager Phil Marsh said there was a great deal of very dry vegetation in the zone already which was a significant fire risk.

"Westerly winds are forecast for the remainder of summer and into autumn for coastal Waitaki, which will further dry out the vegetation," he said.

"That increases the likelihood of a fire starting and rapidly becoming difficult to control.

"Coastal Waitaki has several areas of higher fire risk — rural properties on the edge of towns where the potential for fires to start and spread to adjacent properties is very high, like the outskirts of Oamaru, Shag Point and Moeraki.

"We also have several areas of forestry which would be a challenge for ground-based response to a wildfire," he said.

"We’re asking people not to carry out activities that pose a fire risk, such as mowing, welding and driving through long grass.

"But if you must mow your lawn or undertake any farm activity that’s likely to generate sparks, do it first thing in the morning when it is still cool."

Simple steps to stop fire

 - Clear flammable material from 10m around homes and buildings.

 - Move firewood stacked against houses.

 - Clear gutters of dried leaves and debris that will easily catch fire.

 - Clear flammable material from under decks.

 - Trim trees and bushes and remove the trimmings.

 - Keep grass short — using a trimmer with a nylon line is safer in these conditions than a mower or trimmer with a metal blade that could create a spark.