28 Jan 2013

Fire season 'worst in a decade'

11:08 am on 28 January 2013

The hot, dry summer that has seen hundreds of hectares burned in bushfires is being called the worst fire season in a decade.

The Forest and Rural Fire Association chairman Doug Ashford says such widespread fires do not happen that often.

"This year is one of these seasons that comes round every 10 years. It's a lot warmer, a lot hotter really, with low humidity, which really is causing a lot of these fires."

Mr Ashford says rural fire crews are stressed and tired but are on alert this week, as more hot weather is forecast.

Fire bans are in force in some areas, including Auckland, parts of Hawke's Bay and Canterbury, and many other regions have restrictions.

Auckland Council says fines for those found lighting fires could be up to $300.

Christchurch City Council is warning Cantabrians not to take any unnecessary risks with fire. Civil defence and emergency manager Murray Sinclair said of particular concern are reckless use of fireworks, lawn-mowing on hot windy days, using power tools that spark and discarding cigarettes without extinguishing them fully.

Water warnings

As parts of the country dry out more warnings of water restrictions have been issued.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has advised that irrigation bans are likely to be triggered this week on some rivers because they are expected to reach their minimum flows.

Northland Regional Council is also warning water users to prepare for possible shortages and restrictions unless there is significant rain over the next month or two.

The council says rain over the past several months has been significantly lower than usual in many parts of Northland.

Waikato Regional Council is also keeping a close watch on dry conditions.