Lakes fire zone moves into restricted season

Lake Wakatipu. Photo: ODT files
Lake Wakatipu. Photo: ODT files
The Otago district lakes zone was yesterday moved into a restricted fire season.

The lakes zone includes the land surrounding Lake Wakatipu, the Nevis Valley, and the land west and north of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Otago district manager, Phil Marsh said a permit was now required to light a fire in open air in these areas.

"The fire danger in scrub is extreme despite moderate fire danger elsewhere.

"We have seen this recently during a significant fire at Emerald Bay near Wanaka," he said.

Mr Marsh would also said several areas in the lakes zone were already subject to a total fire ban.

"The Queenstown red zone, Coronet Forest and several islands on Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea are in a year-round prohibited fire season." he says.

Of the other Otago fire zones, central was restricted and coastal and Clutha remained open.

Southern district principal rural fire officer Timo Bierlin said increased vegetation growth and windy, warm and dry conditions were heightening the wildfire risk in the South this summer.

Mr Bierlin said a warm and wet spring had encouraged growth and there was a lot of long vegetation about.

He advised people to remove any other flammable material from potential ignition sources.

The expected continuation of warm, dry and windy weather in the region would likely contribute to the quick spread of wildfires, which would be exacerbated by the heightened vegetation load.

That combination was the "biggest enemy" of rural firefighters.

"It just depends where we get strong winds, those hot temperatures and low relative humidity," he said.

Any area could find itself at risk.

"When a camp cooker tips over on a wet, calm day, not much harm is done. But if it happens in the same area on a dry, hot, and windy day, it’s a completely different outcome."

He encouraged people to call 111 if they saw a fire or smoke, and to check the Fenz website for advice on how to be firesafe.

oscar.francis@odt.co.nz

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