4 Jan 2015

'Any spark' fire risk in Otago

5:53 pm on 4 January 2015

Otago fire officials are warning the region is incredibly dry and, combined with high temperatures and strong winds, poses a significant threat today.

Fire engine

Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Crews are still damping down hot spots at the scenes of two fires which broke out yesterday, one of which forced the evacuation of a camp site and another that destroyed a honey processing plant.

Otago deputy principal rural fire officer Jamie Cowan said gale force winds had been predicted for the lower South Island.

Combined with temperatures as high as 33°C and humidity as low as 20 percent, the risk of fire was high, Mr Cowan said.

"Yeah, it's pretty dry. That's probably a bit of an understatement," he said.

"Today is probably a bit of a spike for us. We've got winds already picking up here, we've got quite high temperatures predicted for the day up to 33°C in Alexandra and our humidity is very, very low."

The region's rural fire authority was prepared but asked that people in the area to showed common sense.

"It is dry enough that if you flick your cigarette out the window or you're out mowing a dry paddock, any spark at the moment certainly can cause a fire," he said.

Crews remained at the scene of a fire which destroyed about eight hectares of grassland in Tarras yesterday afternoon.

The blaze got within 30 metres of a small campsite, forcing about five families to move to safety, Mr Cowan said.

He said the fire was contained last night and crews remained on site to monitor the scene.

Fire investigators and crews also remained at the scene of a blaze in a honey processing shed in Manuherikia Road, near Alexandra.

The fire in the 50 by 30 metre shed took three hours to bring under control, and a team had returned this morning to dampen down hot spots.

The cause of the fire was uncertain but it was not believed to be suspicious.

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