Otago: fire bans in place

Graeme Still
Graeme Still
Fire restrictions are in place across Otago a month later than usual as changing weather poses challenges for firefighters.

The weather is expected to heat up, bringing high temperatures for the region as summer arrives.

A total fire ban is in place for Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Omarama, Otematata, Kurow, Naseby, Ranfurly, Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell.

In the rest of Otago a permit is required to light a fire.

Otago district principal rural fire officer Graeme Still said the restrictions were normally in place in early to mid December.

‘‘Every year the weather does vary and we look at it before we set the restrictions.

‘‘This year the hot weather has come later.’’

He had seen an increase in bigger one-off fire events.

‘‘This year already we have had several wind-related fire events.

‘‘These wind events are more frequent. There’s no doubt things are changing. We are taking advice from people telling us the climate is changing and we have to plan for it.’’

He said parts of Central Otago were very dry, hence the fire ban.

‘‘A fire there would be very hard to put out.’’

He expected the restrictions would last for at least two months.

Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll said soil moisture indicated there would be little rain for Otago over the next seven to 10 days.

‘‘A pocket in Otago is experiencing dryness around Queenstown, Cromwell and Alexandra, because of a dry weather pattern.

‘‘There are no really dry areas at the moment because of the rainfall this month, but that is looking like it will change.

‘‘We’re not seeing the very dry soil because of rainfall in December.’’

He said at the same time last year, conditions were drier across the region.

‘‘It’s a little bit more damp this year in Southland and Otago, but pretty similar in Central Otago to last year.’’

emma.perry@odt.co.nz

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