Local fire danger high despite rain

By Roger Moroney

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Bobbie Antonievic (right), hard at work in his first year picking strawberries, at Scott's Strawberry Farm, Havelock North, in the rain yesterday. Photo / Warren Buckland
Bobbie Antonievic (right), hard at work in his first year picking strawberries, at Scott's Strawberry Farm, Havelock North, in the rain yesterday. Photo / Warren Buckland

The solid belt of steady rain which passed over much of Hawke's Bay yesterday morning had failed to dampen the region's rural fire danger as with hot conditions forecast for the next week the risk would return quickly fire authorities have said.

In some areas they would have returned in as little as two hours after the last raindrop fell.

Along with winds which at times reached 40km/h during the night, 18.8mm of rain fell across Napier but only 2.4mm over Hastings.

Rural areas like Glengarry got 13.5mm while 20mm fell at Kuripapango.

In parts of Central Hawke's Bay up to 8mm was recorded while humidity in Napier and Hastings touched 96 per cent.

However, according to MetService yesterday's rain is all the Bay is set to receive until at least next Wednesday when light wind and rain is forecast - although that forecast is based on computer modelling and subject to change.

Sunshine and temperatures of 30C would now settle in as a large high pressure system drifts over the North Island, and that spelled a quick dry-out.

"It will dry very quickly," Napier Fire Service Senior Station Officer Jamie Nichol said.

It had though been a valuable ally in ensuring the last of any small hot spots from last Friday's grass and scrub fire at Poriati had been put out.

"We went up and checked on it yesterday (Monday) and it looked pretty good then, so that rain will have done the job if there were any small spots left."

However, he said while the falls had dampened the landscape across the Bay it would not last long.

"Everyone needs to stay vigilant - it dries out fast."

Hastings District Council principal rural fire officer Trevor Mitchell said while Napier and some high country areas had a good soaking there was only enough across Hastings "to settle the dust".

And even while some areas had taken plenty of rain it was not enough to provide the one factor which did reduce rural fire danger - the greening effect.

"The stuff that burns is the grass and when it goes brown it goes dry - there has not been enough to green it so it will be back to where it was in only two hours (of sunshine)."

Mr Mitchell said the one positive, in terms of reducing the fire threat, was the fact Hawke's Bay people were used to long, hot spells and were aware of fire danger levels.

That however did not appear to be the case with some people in Wairoa.

"We had a few hours of sporadic rain and then started getting a few calls from people asking if they could have a fire now," Wairoa District Council rural fire officer Paul van Dorrestein said.

"Everything is still exactly the same," he said, adding the rain had done nothing to lessen the danger and the prohibited fire season status would remain firmly in place.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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