Wairarapa heatwave brings growing fire risk

By and Kelli Hooks


Fire danger is rising in rural Wairarapa and water restrictions are tightening throughout the region ahead of the hottest, driest days of the year.

Phill Wishnowsky, Wairarapa principal rural fire officer, said a restricted fire season is in force in Wairarapa, which is at risk of fires erupting in cross-over conditions, where humidity is lower than temperature and blazes rapidly become "extreme and uncontrollable".

In Masterton and at Ngaumu Forest, east of the town, the temperature hit 28C and humidity was 25 per cent yesterday. On January 19, the temperature at Ngawi topped 25C, while the humidity was 13 per cent. The heightened danger periods seem to be happening more frequently, he said.

"February is traditionally our hottest, driest month and March is our second driest and one of our hottest. The height of summer is still ahead of us and so are the associated risks of fire," Mr Wishnowsky said.

Temperatures are expected to top 30C this week, with little rain on the way.

He said a total Wairarapa fire ban was yet to be enforced and permits were being issued for incinerators, wood-fired barbecues, braziers and pizza ovens.

"We've been trying to hold off on a total fire ban because we knew there were stubble burns to be completed," he said.

A total hosing ban was posted yesterday in Eketahuna and Woodville because of declining river levels and resource consent requirements, said Dave Watson, Tararua District Council utilities manager.

"We need co-operation from everyone as the long-term weather forecast is for continuing hot summer weather.

"Everyone needs to take their conservation responsibilities extremely seriously," Mr Watson said. Garry Baker, Carterton District Council operations manager, said water metering had kept usage levels well within capacity so far this summer and the town still had stand-by bores available if needed.

"Our biggest concern is the Kaipatangata Stream, the lower the stream goes the more pressure put on our systems," Mr Baker said.

The South Wairarapa District Council allows urban and rural users to water gardens with hand-held hoses, sprinklers and irrigation devices on alternate days throughout the year.

Mark Allingham of South Wairarapa District Council said a dozen commercial irrigation users had been restricted since January 11 to night-time irrigation only.

Masterton District Council has restricted sprinklers to use on alternate days since December 1 in urban Masterton and Taueru.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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