14 March 2013
Total fire ban for Southland
A total fire ban has been declared for all of Southland and parts of the Clutha District covered by the Southern Rural Fire District.
The ban means that no-one can light any fires in the open and also suspends all existing fire permits.
Principal Rural Fire Officer Mike Grant says people with large piles of debris still burning should be looking to extinguish these immediately.
The only exception to the ban is for gas barbecues and cookers in properly constructed containers and in safe areas.
The fire ban also applies to all urban areas within the Gore District, Southland District and Invercargill City. It also prohibits people in these towns from burning rubbish, using incinerators, or cooking outdoors with open braziers or hangis.
Extreme fire risk
Mr Grant said that due to continued hot and particularly dry weather, the fire risk was very high to extreme throughout most of Southland. While some rain is forecast in a few days it is not predicted to be sufficient to significantly drop fire danger levels.
“With weather conditions predicted to continue and reduced vegetation moisture, it will rapidly elevate the fire danger further,” he said. “There is potential across the province for significant wildfires to occur so the ban has been imposed for safety reasons”.
Grassland drying rapidly
The entire Southland province is experiencing the current run of warm and dry weather. Consequently all areas are particularly dry with large areas of grassland drying rapidly.
Dry and dead vegetation creates more fuel for fires making them more intense and fire fighting more difficult and dangerous.
There would have to be significant rain over an extended period before the ban would be lifted, Mr Grant said.
He warned that activities such as chain sawing or using machinery like mowers or tractors is also potentially hazardous where vegetation is dead and dry.