Fires restricted; permits required

Southland residents will need a permit to light fires from tomorrow due to an elevated fire danger.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand made the announcement yesterday. Fire and Emergency New Zealand Southern District deputy principal rural fire officer Timo Bierlin said the increased fire risk had come from daily monitoring of the region, as well as a predicted hot and dry January.

"We’re monitoring the weather all year round and we have a fire weather system where we record certain indices ... we have trigger points in the system and those trigger points have been reached now." 

A recent spate of callouts to out-of-control burn-offs, including one in the Catlins on Thursday and another at Wairaki Station on Saturday, had also helped  increase the fire warning for the region he said.

The increased fire warning will also allow the fire service to closely monitor and inspect permit applications as well as provide advice to people wishing to burn off during the permit period.

Mr Bierlin said the permit status of the region would remain in place until it was deemed safe to allow fires without the need for a permit.

The situation would be monitored daily and a total fire ban was possible should conditions get worse, he said.

The region will now be listed as "restricted" on the fire service’s three-tiered warning system.

The other two states are "open", which allows fires to be lit in open areas without a permit, and "prohibited", which means a total fire ban is in place.

Outside Southland, four  areas in Otago and South Canterbury are listed as restricted: Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes Geraldine and Waimate Forest all require permits for fires.

People wishing to apply for a permit can visit www.checkitsalright.nz. Applications take between five and 10 days to be assessed.

ben.waterworth@odt.co.nz

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