A Prohibited Fire Season for all of the Southern Fire District was declared on Monday, January 15.
The ban means no one can light any fires in the open and also suspends all existing fire permits.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand principal rural fire officer Elton Smith said existing fires must be put out.
“People with piles of debris still burning should be looking to extinguish these immediately. The only exception to the ban is for gas barbecues.”
Fire and Emergency is also advising people to check fires lit in the last month to ensure these are out, as current conditions can fan a fire back into life and spread embers to other areas of dry vegetation.
The fire ban also applies to all townships within the Southland and Gore districts, and includes Invercargill city.
It prohibits people in these places from burning rubbish, using incinerators, or cooking outdoors with open braziers or hangis.
Mr Smith said 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, it is not predicted to be enough to drop fire danger levels.
“With weather conditions as they are, and reduced vegetation moisture, it will continue to 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.”
The entire Southland province is experiencing a run of warm and dry weather. Consequently, all areas are particularly dry with large areas of grassland drying rapidly.
“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,” he said.
Dry and dead vegetation creates more fuel for fires making them more intense and firefighting more difficult and dangerous.
Fire and Emergency advises caution around activities which may produce sparks such as lawn mowing, chainsaw use and grinding, as a spark could start a fire.
– Consider if the activity should be undertaken at all. Early morning when conditions are cooler and a dew is present will reduce the risk
– Maintain equipment and machinery to reduce the potential of sparks
– Fit spark arrestors
– Ensure the area is clear of any flammable material
Motorbikes, quad bikes, four wheel drives and other hot machinery also pose a risk.
– Consider how dry the vegetation is when you intend to go
– Maintain the exhaust system on machinery
– Do not leave machinery engines running while parked on dry flammable material
– Carry a 9kg ABE dry powder fire extinguisher
- Fires that are out
Check they are out
Turn the area over to ensure there is no heat left in the pile
Apply water and cool if any residual heat
Rake out, apply water and cool down
Thinking of lighting a fire