"Don't burn" is the message from Fire and Emergency New Zealand for Whanganui and South Taranaki as a total fire ban starts from 8am today.

All areas of the Whanganui District south of Otoko Pā and all of the South Taranaki District are under a total fire ban. That meant no outdoor fires were allowed, deputy principal rural fire officer Gavin Pryce said.

Parts of the Whanganui District north of Otoko Pā and the Ruapehu District are under a restricted fire season. Parts of the Rangitikei and Manawatū districts have restricted fire seasons that are being extended further inland.

"There's been no rain for a number of weeks, we've had a very windy January and early February and we're still getting quite strong afternoon sea breezes along the coast," Pryce said.

Advertisement

"All of that combined gives us quite a high fire risk. Nationally, the fire risk is extremely high - the highest we've seen for a number of years as a country and we are no exception. We all know what has happened with the fires in Nelson/Tasman and we don't want to see that happen here.

"We don't see any rain in the forecast for at least the next seven to 10 days. The odd shower might come through but there's no significant rain over a number of days to have a decent effect on the soil moisture content.

"You have the forecasted weather you can see on the news but we use a fire weather forecast where we can look up to seven days ahead, based on rain, humidity, forecasted wind. It tells us what the fire danger will be seven days from now and that's continuing to go through the roof.

"With a grass area, how brown it is is an indication of its moisture content. The drier it is, the harder it is to contain and suppress a fire."

Pryce said the decision to impose a total fire ban was not made lightly.

"For some people, fire is a land management tool so a ban has a big impact on some rural people. But the numbers don't tell lies so we are doing everything in our power to mitigate that.

"Anyone who currently has a fire permit will have that cancelled during the total fire ban.

"The message I'm giving is 'don't burn'. A total fire ban means no fire. Gas-fuelled barbecues are okay but nothing with a naked flame and no outdoor fires at all.

Advertisement

"People need to be vigilant even with things like lawn mowing. Hitting a stone can start a spark and, with the wind we've been having, it can quickly spread a fire."

• Anyone with concerns about vegetation that may be a fire hazard should try to discuss it with the property owner first. If that is not successful, go to the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website www.fireandemergency.nz and fill in an online application for fire hazard removal. Staff will then visit the site, assess its fire risk and decide whether any action is needed.