Manawatu faces fire ban

High temperatures spark blaze worries

JANINE RANKIN AND MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 30/01/2013
Potential fire ban
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

SUMMER SIGN: Rural fire officer Graeme McIntyre nudges the fire risk indicator from moderate to high.

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Sunny skies have Manawatu residents seeking ways to cool off and rural fire officers considering a total fire ban.

A large anticyclone parked over New Zealand this week meant Palmerston North recorded its fifth consecutive day of clear skies and warm temperatures yesterday.

The MetService 10-day forecast does not have any rain on the radar until Tuesday, with temperatures over that period predicted to be in the high twenties.

For a time yesterday afternoon Palmerston North had the highest temperature in the country before being pipped by Taumarunui.

The mercury eventually peaked at 28.9 degrees Celsius about 3pm.

Principal rural fire officer Stewart Davies said Palmerston North was still operating under restricted fire season rules, but that could change if fine weather continued into next week.

"We're shifting the level on the notice boards as an indication to the public that things are getting hotter and drier."

The restricted fire season was imposed a week before Christmas, requiring anyone who wants to light an outdoor fire to have a permit.

About 50 permits had been granted to people who applied, and none of those permitted fires had created any problems.

Officers will respond to most requests within 24 hours, at no cost, and will carry out a site inspection before issuing a permit.

Mr Davies said permit holders needed to use common sense, and be particularly careful not to light fires in windy conditions.

The officers had been called out to a handful of fires that were not permitted, such as torched vehicles, but those situations had also been brought under control.

A decision on moving to a total ban was likely to be made after consultation with the city's immediate neighbours, which were also under restricted fire season rules at the moment. Coastal areas and Central Hawke's Bay already had bans.

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the fine and sunny weather was locked in because "the upper level winds that steer weather systems are currently stuck or blocked over New Zealand".

"It's a bit like an immovable rock in a fast flowing stream."

Today's high was predicted by MetService to be 30C.

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- Manawatu Standard

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