Caution urged due to extreme fire risk in Otago and Southland
IntroductionAnyone heading into the outdoors in Otago and Southland must show extreme caution to reduce fire risks in the current tinder-dry conditions.
Date: 21 February 2023
Most of Otago is already in a prohibited fire season, which means a total ban on open air fires, due to the extreme fire risk. There is also a very high fire risk in parts of Southland and Canterbury.
Te Papanui Conservation Park near Dunedin is currently closed to the public due to the fire risk in the area.
DOC Southern South Island Operations Director Aaron Fleming says anyone enjoying the outdoors during this fine spell needs to adhere to any bans on open fires, including at campsites, and be mindful of anything that could cause a spark.
“Any spark or heat could start a fire in the current dry and windy conditions, which would be very difficult to put out and could spread quickly.
Aaron Fleming says gas cookers may still be used to prepare food, but anyone using these must be very cautious.
“Please use a picnic area, shelter or hut to set up your cooker wherever possible. Set them up at least 3m clear of any vegetation on a stable, level surface, and be careful when balancing heavy pots on top as they could tip the cooker over.”
“Another thing to think about is where to park the car at the start of a trip, as a hot exhaust in long grass can start a fire. This also applies to motorbikes or four-wheel-drives on public conservation land.”
Aaron Fleming says before heading out, people should use the 'Check it's alright' website to follow the fire safety advice and to check the local fire danger level. This tool will tell you whether it’s currently ok to light a fire.
“It’s also worth checking the DOC webpage for the area, which will have information on any current closures or other issues.”
Fire and Emergency NZ have brought in a temporary ban for Otago on a range of activities that could cause a spark, including roadside mowing, scrub cutting/weed eating with a blade, grinding, welding, mulching, and gas-cutting outdoors. DOC staff will be following these restrictions in their fieldwork.
Reducing the risk of unwanted fire will assist our already stretched emergency services who have been responding to the devastating aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in the North Island.
While rain is forecast this don’t look to be enough to ease current fire danger levels. Fire and Emergency NZ will continue to monitor the fire danger.
While Fire and Emergency NZ has plans in place for these situations, including support from partner agencies, reducing the risk of unwanted fire will assist our emergency services who have been responding to the devastating aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in the North Island.
- 'Check is alright' website
- Fire and Emergency NZ media release 17 February 2023: Bans on fire risk activities for Otago
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