Lightning sparks tinder dry scrub

By Doug Laing

A series of lightning strikes caused wildfires in rural Hawke's Bay yesterday afternoon.

The sky lit up about 4.30pm in a bizarre interlude to some of Hawke's Bay's hottest weather in more than a decade, as temperatures soared above 33C across most of the region including the East Coast.

A scrub fire started in the hills east of Poukawa and two helicopter crews used monsoon buckets filled by Fire Service and volunteer fire brigades from a site near Douglas Rd.

The scene of the fire was an estimated 1-2km away, where fire burned uphill and over a ridge.

The Fire Service reported after 7pm that it was under control, but the helicopters were still being used to fight the blaze.

Just moments before the fire was reported, a lightning strike also started a grass fire on a property at Waitangi Rd, Waimarama.

It was quickly brought under control by the Waimarama Rural Fire Party, and the Fire Service's Havelock North Volunteer Brigade was also called.

But fires weren't the only problem for the region's firefighters. The hot weather in Napier was being blamed for setting off at least four alarms during the day, and in Havelock North a call to a tree-fire revealed there was no smoke - just steam from the few minutes of rain.

The maximum temperature at a Hawke's Bay weather station early last night appeared to have been 33.1C recorded at Wairoa about 1.30pm, while one gauge in Waipukurau recorded 33.8C.

The maximum temperature for the day in TVNZ's news and weather was 33C in Hastings, and it was still over 30C at 7.30pm.

By 7pm yesterday, fire services from Bay View to Dannevirke had faced 30 calls on Saturday and Sunday.

While temperatures into the 30Cs are expected again today, forecasts which late last week predicted sunny and dry weather in the Napier-Hastings area through to at least the end of next weekend, have changed.

A 10-day MetService outlook for Hastings was last night indicating some rain on every day for the next week, except next Sunday, with the possibility of gale-force westerlies in southern and central Hawke's Bay from late Wednesday into Thursday.

But Central Hawke's Bay rural fire officer Bruce Kitto wasn't taking chances. "I'll believe it when I see it," he said on the likelihood of rain.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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