15 Feb 2016

Fire risk in Wellington region to be raised to high

2:32 pm on 15 February 2016

The Wellington Rural Fire Authority will be increasing the fire risk from moderate to high this week, with several scrub fires occurring in the region in the last few days.

Upper Hutt scrub fire

One of the scrub fires. Photo: Supplied

Three crews and a helicopter with a monsoon bucket are still working to fully extinguish two large scrub fires which broke out behind Maidstone Park in Upper Hutt yesterday.

One of them forced the temporary evacuation of five homes.

Deputy Principal Fire Officer Peter Walker said the fires were contained but because of the dry conditions in the area, they could easily spark up again so crews were on high alert.

He said the fires were suspicious and the police were investigating.

Meanwhile, firefighters were earlier called to another fire in the area, in a pine forest in the Blue Mountains, but that has since been contained and is not being treated as suspicious.

In Wellington, 11 fire engines attended a scrub fire above the Mt Victoria tunnel yesterday after an area full of pines trees caught alight.

Last week, a man was seriously injured after a digger caught fire on Wellington's south coast. The fire then spread to nearby pine trees on the urban fringe of the city in the suburb of Owhiro Bay.

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A helicopter fighting last week's fire in the Wellington suburb of Owhiro Bay. Photo: Maja Burry

Fire risk increases

The level of fire risk will be increased from moderate to high this week in the Wellington region which covers Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Otaki to Wellington.

Principal Rural Fire Officer Rachel Thorp said the high level indicated that fires would ignite easily and that it was more difficult for firefighters to bring them under control.

She said the public had been very helpful in allowing firefighters to get the recent blazes quickly under control by informing emergency services as soon as they saw them.

She said the main difficulty with the two scrub fires burning in Upper Hutt was the difficult terrain.

Ms Thorp said it was better for people to call 111 straight away if they saw smoke as a false alarm was preferable to a major blaze getting out of control.

She said fire permits were still needed in the area and people should even be careful using things like barbeques.

Summer watering restrictions

Wellington Water is keeping a close watch on the situation with a view to introducing more rigorous water restrictions, although some rain is forecast for the region this week.

At this stage the standard summer watering restrictions apply in Wellington which apply every year during the daylight savings period.

During these months, Wellington residents can only use one watering system at a time (sprinkler, irrigation system, soaker hose or unattended hose) between 6am-8am and 7pm-9pm on alternate days. People living in even-numbered properties can water on even-numbered days and vice versa.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Wellington Water spokesperson Alex van Paassen said with the hot weather, river levels were falling and they had been using the water storage lakes at Te Marua which were around 89 percent full on Friday.

He said although rain was forecast later this week, if it fell in the city rather than the hills it was not much use, while a short rain burst could be a nuisance rather than a help because it dirtied the river.

Mr van Paassen said the next step in terms of conserving water would be to implement a sprinkler ban and the next level would be a hosing ban.

He said if there was no rain this week, or if it was not of use, then Wellington Water would be looking to gear up to the next level of water restriction.

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