Very high fire danger for Southland

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FIRE and Emergency New Zealand says the risk of a fire breaking out in Southland is extremely high, and is urging people to be extra vigilant.

Fire and Emergency principal rural fire officer Elton Smith said the hot weather forecast for this weekend (January 13 and 14) and early next week meant a fire could easily break out.

“The potential for strong northerly winds, gusting 20-25kmh, over the weekend coupled with very warm temperatures of about 30 degrees, will dry vegetation and other material, making them easier to ignite,” he said.

“Strong winds will fan embers back into life from previous burns, putting surrounding property at risk. Fires that are normally easy to control during lower fire dangers, become very difficult during high and extreme fire dangers due to their volatile nature.”

A cool southerly change and rain is forecast for Tuesday, but Mr Smith said that was unlikely to reduce the fire danger as it would dry very quickly.

He is asking people who have burnt in the last month to make sure their fires are completely out, as the conditions could fan a fire back to life and spread embers to other dry vegetation.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is also asking people to extinguish any existing fires, and not to light any more over the next four days, including charcoal barbecues, braziers, camp fires, and incinerators.

Gas fires are allowed but people should be extra careful not to light them near long grass or anything flammable.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the summer with their families, and that includes our volunteers, so the more people can do to prevent unnecessary fires, the better,” Mr Smith said.

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