While Australia battles horrific bush fires across the Tasman, local crews are mindful of this time of the year closer to home. Last February, a spark from farm machinery caused a blaze that affected 2300ha of lands, destroyed one home and forced the evacuation of about 3000 people and 700 livestock and pets.

Following that outbreak, fires flared up at Rabbit Island, Atawhai, Moutere Hill and Dovedale Hill, costing Fire and Emergency NZ about $13 million in total.

With that in mind, principal rural fire officer Ian Reade is urging locals to take extra care.

“As the fire risk climbs and you are working or playing in the outdoors, take note of your surroundings.”

He says grass is starting to dry out and has reached the point where in parts of the district at least 50 per cent is dead or dried out.

“At the 50 per cent level a fire will carry through the grass on a warm dry day,” Ian says. “As the grass continues to dry the risk of ignition from sparks or hot surfaces such as exhaust pipes increases.”

In early January, the fire danger is moderate on cooler, calm days and high on windy days. Already this year fire crews have battled blazes in rural parts of the region.

Ian says there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.
“If it’s hot and dry and you are doing spark-hazardous work, do it in the morning when there is dew on the ground or late in the evening.”

He says the riskiest time for an ignition is 11am through to 7pm when temperature is high and humidity is low.

Nelson Tasman is in a restricted season meaning nearly all fires in the open air require a permit. To check out if you need a permit, and to apply for one, go to www.fireandemergency.nz.

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