Continuous dry spell means total fire ban likely past Easter

By Aaron van Delden,

A total fire ban for the Wanganui district is likely to remain in force beyond Easter unless more rain falls this autumn.

The ban, prohibiting all fires with the exception of gas barbecues, was put in place late last month.

Wanganui's principal rural fire officer Bernie Rush said that, while a good dumping of rain was recorded in parts of the region last weekend, it did not consistently cover the whole area.

Horizons Regional Council also reiterated yesterday the total fire ban declared for its territory on March 8.

The principal rural fire officer for Ruapehu, Rangitikei, Manawatu and Horowhenua, Brent Fanning, said: "The rain we received was really only enough to provide temporary relief to the high fire danger as opposed to cancelling the threat."

In each of the past five months, a lower-than-average amount of rain has fallen in Wanganui and that's left the district tinder dry.

Last weekend, rural fire officers came across three campfires while they were patrolling Wanganui beaches.

Mr Rush said a campfire led to the scrub fire near Wanganui Airport, which engulfed 10ha of land adjacent to South Beach.

Permits to burn stubble this weekend have been granted to some grain growers in the area, albeit with stringent conditions. The crop areas must be divided into smaller-than-usual blocks with 8m-wide fire breaks, the stubble can be burnt only from late afternoon and a water-spray unit must be on hand.

Mr Rush said people should be aware such fires produce columns of smoke but ought to call 111 if they have any concerns.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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