Fire service monitors region

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A light smattering of rain in North Otago yesterday dampened conditions around the region but fire service personnel say things are drier than this time last year and care should be taken.

“There’s a high fire danger inland beyond Kurow and moderate near the coast,” Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine said.

“We really need 15 millimetres of rain and we’ve only had three.”

He said the residue of water left by floods in June was misleading, as was a lot of green growth and environmentally things were getting drier.

Waitaki principal rural fire officer Steve Couper said conditions were becoming drier through the Waitaki Valley and Pigroot.

“You’d expect that, but we’re monitoring it every day,” he said.

“We’re still in a restricted season so (fire) permits are needed. We don’t want people burning stumps.

“We’ve had a lot of winds around and if you get a brisk wind, a fire can take off. Farmers have been really good and hopefully we get through and have a good Christmas that we can spend with our families.”

Meanwhile, low river levels are being reported around Otago, and the Otago Regional Council (ORC) is advising all irrigators to cut back and prepare for potential water rationing.

Warm, dry weather is expected to prevail over the summer, potentially pushing many rivers to minimum flow levels early in the season.

The Kakanui, Shag, Taieri, Manuherikia, and Pomahaka rivers are already at low levels, not usually seen until late summer.

ORC manager environmental services Martin King said if no substantial rain fell throughout the region soon, there could be a need for rationing to begin later in the month or early in the New Year.

Up-to-date river level and rainfall information is available on the ORC Water Info site (www.water.orc.govt.nz) or by phoning 0800 426 463.

By CHRIS TOBIN