It’s getting hotter and hotter as we move towards the end of January, and Fire and Emergency say that the fire risk is quickly increasing, with a total fire ban taking effect this week.
Principal rural fire officer Ian Reade says, “We’re going into a period of extreme fire danger.”
The total fire ban came into force on Monday 27 January, for the entire Nelson Tasman area.
“We’ve had no effective rain for over a month now, the winds that we’ve had and the hot temperature is drying the place out.”
Permits for fires across the Waimea Basin have been suspended.
Ian says that firefighters are still painfully aware of the damage caused by 2019’s blaze that started in Pigeon Valley.
“Be aware of your surroundings.”
People who are doing activities that could create sparks should do so first thing in the morning, or late at night, Ian says.
Even parking the car in the long grass can start a fire, a case that firefighters were called out to last week.
The Tasman District Council are also urging caution for reserve and park users, with the council recommending people use the reserves only in the morning or evening.
Council reserves and facilities manager Richard Hollier says that it’s a balancing act.
“We are trying to balance the opportunity for people to access reserves, compared to the level of risk. If we did have a fire, how easy is it to evacuate people?”
The council closed several reserves, including Moturoa/Rabbit Island, last year while fire crews battled blazes in Nelson and Pigeon Valley.
“Areas like Kingsland Forest, which is steep, can be a real risk. If a fire starts at the bottom of the hill it travels up and there aren’t a lot of safe havens for anyone stuck up there.”
The BUI (Build Up Index) is climbing above 60.
BUI is used by Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and other agencies to measure fire risk – it’s an indicator of the difficulty in suppressing a fire that has started.
If the BUI reaches 80, the Council will be seeking advice on the of closing reserves that are considered high risk, such as Moturoa/ Rabbit Island, Rough Island, Kingsland Forest and Tunnicliffe Forest.
At a BUI of 100, wider restrictions will come into force and reserves in the affected areas will be closed.
Visit Checkitsalright.nz for more information on what you can and can’t do during a total fire ban. If you see any signs of smoke or fire in any reserves around the region, call 111 immediately.