Total fire ban announced for Lakes District

Tinder-dry conditions in the Queenstown Lakes district have prompted a total ban on all fires, including previously permitted fires, from midnight tomorrow.

The QLDC principal rural fire officer Gordon Bailey's ban announcement came about 90 minutes after the Lake Hawea attended a vegetation fire in the Maungawera Valley.

Lake Hawea Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Doug Brenssell said yesterday his concerns were increasing after three fires in three days, all of which were reported about 3pm.

There was little prospect of conditions easing as there was no significant rain in weather forecasts, Mr Brenssell said.

The Metservice forecast is for showers and sun today and possibly tomorrow, but temperatures will remain in the mid-20s.

Clear, sunny weather is forecast for the weekend and early next week, with temperatures rising to the late 20s by Tuesday.

Rain and northerly winds are forecast from Wednesday, but temperatures may not drop significantly until Friday.

"If we do have rain, there will not be enough to knock down a total fire ban, I would think. There is nothing significant on the horizon.

" It is all moving up and down the west and east coast and we are stuck in the middle and drying out," Mr Brenssell said.

Mr Brenssell said yesterday's fire started at the site of a permitted burn undertaken several months ago.

"Over time, it had re-ignited because of the hot dry conditions. But it wasn't nearly as big as the last two ones we have had," Mr Brenssell said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the brigade attended a rubbish fire on a rural property on Camp Hill Rd.

On Monday afternoon the brigade had a satisfying save when it contained a fast moving grass fire that was threatening a house and several outbuildings on a rural property at Hawea Flat.

The fire went beneath a sleepout but did not completely destroy the building or damage many contents. The house was not burned.

"That was a close call. It motored. It just took off.

"They called us virtually straight away and it didn't take long to move," Mr Brenssell said.

The district fire ban applies to all settlements and townships and all Department of Conservation land within the district.

"Conditions are extremely dry ... Extra care should be taken with cigarette butts and when operating machinery as sparks can result in unwanted fires," Mr Bailey said.

Only electric or gas barbecues in properly constructed containers can be used.

Any fires must be in approved, purpose-built, permanent surrounds.

There are penalties for lighting a fire without a permit or while a prohibited fire season is in place.

"Fires are expensive to fight and reparation for the costs and damage incurred may be sought from those responsible ...

"If you add to that the potential for loss of property and human life, it's best for everyone if fires don't get started in the first place," Mr Bailey said.

The fire ban remains in place until further notice.

Anyone who saw a fire should phone 111 immediately, Mr Bailey said.


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