Rain a re­lief but fire risk re­mains high

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA DAWE and JES­SICA MAD­DOCK

The rain­fall early this week eased the high fire risk in Cen­tral Otago but peo­ple still need to be ex­tremely vig­i­lant, the district’s prin­ci­pal ru­ral fire of­fi­cer says. Owen Burgess said 38.6mm fell in Alexan­dra dur­ing the 48 hours from 9am on Sun­day. With the mer­cury reg­u­larly ris­ing above 30degC dur­ing the past fort­night, the re­gion had quickly be­come tin­der dry. A pro­hib­ited fire sea­son was in place. Mr Burgess said de­spite the brief re­spite, the pro­hib­ited fire sea­son would re­main be­cause the area was cer­tain to dry out again. ‘‘Yes, it has re­duced it, but we are still in sum­mer. There is still hot weather to come. ‘‘We are go­ing to mon­i­tor it now and see what is hap­pen­ing out there, as far as dry­ness in the veg­e­ta­tion is con­cerned.’’ Rain ef­fects hy­drol­o­gist Dave Ste­wart, of Dunedin, said there was lit­tle rain on the radar dur­ing the next few weeks – and that could mean trou­ble for farm­ers and lo­cal fire au­thor­i­ties.

While farm­ers did not ap­pear to be in ‘‘dire straits’’ yet and had in fact had been busy hay­mak­ing, a good 10-15mm of rain in the next few days would be very help­ful, par­tic­u­larly for win­ter crops. The rain and lack of wind in early Jan­uary had been ‘‘hugely help­ful’’ to farm­ers and had en­sured the cur­rent spell of hot weather had not yet hit them too hard. Mr Burgess said now was an ideal time for peo­ple with empty sec­tions – which cre­ated a huge fire threat in Cen­tral Otago – to mow them and re­move the clip­pings. Due to the rain ear­lier in the week, the risk of fire over the next few days was re­duced so sparks from mow­ers were less likely to cause a fire. He praised peo­ple’s re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour so far but re­minded farm­ers who were hay-mak­ing or us­ing ma­chin­ery to en­sure they car­ried water in case their equip­ment started a fire. ‘‘If they can at­tack a fire early on, it can help put it out quickly,’’ he said.

Hot sum­mer: Dry con­di­tions at Gim­mer­burn. Photo: Jan MacKen­zie

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