Fire status in the Ruapehu District is still open but its council is urging people lighting outdoor fires to take every precaution.

An "open" status means permits are not required, but Ruapehu District Council principal rural fire officer Nick Watson said anyone using machinery or lighting a fire outdoors needed to be very careful.

The district has had some periods of extreme dry weather but there was enough rain on Friday, and on January 2 and 3, to allow the open fire status to remain in place.

It does not apply to places within 1km of conservation land.


"People should also be aware that all Department of Conservation (DoC) land has a permanent fire restriction in place.

"Anyone lighting a fire within 1km of DoC land needs to contact the DoC area office for a permit."

The council provides free brochures on safe fire practices and also on-site fire safety inspections at no charge.

Mr Watson warned that responsibility for fires in rural areas was different from urban areas. In rural areas, people could be held personally liable for the cost of putting out an out-of-control fire, even if they had a fire permit.

"The costs for putting out large rural fires can easily climb into six-figure sums, especially if helicopters are involved or the fire causes damage to another business or property."

Anyone lighting an outdoor fire must be able to control it, Mr Watson said.

"If you are in any doubt about the conditions or fire safety, then don't burn."

Niwa said strong, warm winds were stripping moisture from soil and foliage, increasing the fire risk.