DOC: Scorching southern summer a serious fire risk

By the Department of Conservation (DOC)

Campers and outdoor enthusiasts are urged to be fire wise this summer as warm, dry weather persists in the south.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Te Anau Operations Manager Greg Lind says, “while this weather is providing perfect opportunities to get out and experience the great outdoors, it’s also creating the perfect conditions for some very serious fire risks.”

Most of Southland and Otago, including Fiordland, the Catlins, and Queenstown Lakes district is currently in a restricted fire zone, meaning you must obtain a permit to light any fires.

In Central Otago – including Wanaka, Alexandra and Cromwell, all open air fires are prohibited.

“While we shouldn’t have anyone with open air fires in the area, we want to remind people to be extra vigilant and use extreme caution when working with gas cookers. With conditions the way they are, it takes very little for a fire to take hold,” Greg Lind says.

“Anyone who does light a fire is ultimately responsible for it, and can be liable for any suppression costs.”

The call comes after DOC’s Te Anau-based crew spent Sunday and Monday controlling a large fire on Mt Titiroa, Southern Fiordland, that appears to have stemmed from a lightning strike.

DOC supports Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) to fight fires on conservation land and other rural areas.

The fire burnt through about 20 ha of tussock on the western slopes of the mountain almost directly above the North Borland bivvy.

“It’s a good reminder to people that we do get fire conditions in Fiordland and at the moment, that risk is high and climbing,” Greg Lind says.

FENZ Southern District Principal Rural Fire Officer Elton Smith says fire and emergency crews have been unseasonably busy with a number of vegetation fires throughout Southland since October, particularly northern and western Southland.

“Rainfall deficits are currently high which is compounding seasonal drying. If you have undertaken any prescribed burning, particularly larger material it is important that these burn sites are actively monitored, particularly if wind is forecast as these can re-ignite weeks after they appear out,” Elton Smith says.

“You can check fire weather and whether you need a permit to light an open fire at Check It’s Alright (external site)

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