Total fire ban put in place

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A total fire ban has been issued for Southland.

Southern Rural Fire District community engagement officer Sally Chesterfield said the risk of fires breaking out in Southland was very high.

“We are urging people to be vigilant,” she said.

The ban was put in place on Sunday following 32degC highs, she said.

“It’s been such a dry summer.”

The fire ban cancels all permits that had been issued. eople could apply for permits but they would not be considered until the fire ban was lifted, Ms Chesterfield said.

The ban also applied to charcoal barbecues.

“The only exception is for gas barbecues and they must only be used well away from anything that can catch fire.”

If people had lit a fire during the last few months they should check the site to make sure there were no hot spots, she said.

“People should open up the area and make sure all the embers are completely out.

“If they are not, pour cold water on them until they are stone cold.”

It was very important for people to compile with the fire ban, she said.

“Because of the dry summer, vegetation is very dry and can easily catch fire.”

Last year was the driest year on record since 1901, she said.

Strong winds were forecast, which could cause fires to spread, Ms Chesterfield said.

“The wind blows embers around which could cause vegetation to catch fire.”

She also urged people report fires, she said.

“If you see a fire that looks suspicious call 111 and report it.”

How long the ban was in place depended on rainfall, Ms Chesterfield said.

“It looks like it will be in place for at least a couple of months.”

Gore Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Steve Lee said it was vital that people comply with the ban.

“The country vegetation is so dry and moisture so low that something as small as a cigarette butt thrown from a car window could be a catalyst for a significant fire event in our area,” Mr Lee said.

He urged people to be wise outdoors, he said.

“It’s a great time to be outdoors but it’s important to enjoy it in a safe manner.”

In Southland there were two standard brigades in Invercargill, 29 volunteer fire brigades and eight rural fire brigades, Mr Lee said.

“[The] majority of rescuers are coming from volunteer fire brigades.

“Every time they get called out it takes them away from their job or family.”

If people took notice of the fire ban there would be fewer callouts, which would mean less stress on employers and families, Mr Lee said.