Light relief but fire ban remains

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Light showers yesterday afternoon and more rain forecast later in the week is unlikely to put an end to a region-wide fire ban.

The whole Otago district, including Central, South, and North Otago are part of the fire ban which was introduced on Saturday.

With little rain in the North Otago since early spring, things have dried up and any sort of fire could cause havoc to the area.

Otago Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer, Stephanie Rotarangi said the ban comes into place immediately.

“The Otago Rural Fire Authority has declared a Prohibited Fire Season (total fire ban) across the entire Otago region from January 10.”

Although the temperature has dropped slightly the fire risk is still high, she said.

“Despite the drop of temperature over the last few days the fire risk is continuing to build in the region.

“We realise a total fire ban is inconvenient for landowners. However, there is now a high risk of fires escaping due to a combination of dry conditions and significant fuel.”

“During a total fire ban we also ask all people to also take care when operating equipment such as mowers, grinders and chainsaws. Importantly, if you do start or see a fire call 111 immediately.”

Otago Rural Fire Authority rural fire officer Eric Spittal, who looks after North Otago, said people needed to be especially careful in the Waitaki district.

“Things are now critical and we are at the stage that if a fire starts in North otago it will very quickly get out of control.”

While some places in the Waitaki are still relatively green due to irrigation people are reminded not to get confused.

“Those places are seeing plenty of water because they are part of the Waitaki Irrigation and there’s no water restrictions.

“However it’s the things like gorse and other various things outside of those places that could catch fire easily, Mr Spittal said.

Plenty of rain is needed for the fire ban to be lifted and at this stage that’s unlikely to happen, with only light rain forecast.

“It looks as though the restrictions could be in place for a little while,” he said.

It’s a bit unfortunate because it’s been a fantastic summer, but the lack of rain is making things hard, Mr Spittal said.

“People mowing lawns, welding or anything else need to take extreme care.”

Sports fields, paddocks, scrub are all so dry and could light up at any time, he said.

Metservice duty forecaster Mariken van Laanen said Oamaru had some light rain yesterday and was due to have more on Wednesday and next weekend.

However, at this stage it did not look as if it would be substantial rainfuall.

PHOTO: RUBY HARFIELD – Jenny Peng and Geoffrey Chen, from Christchurch, feel for spots of rain during their stay.