Fire danger remains high
Firefighters warn the wet weather in Marlborough this week does not mean the fire risk has diminished.
Marlborough principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara said yesterday the key driver in the fire risk was the grass curing, or drying out, not the rain.
"If you look at the Wither Hills, that golden yellow colour means it is most vulnerable in terms of fire," Mr McNamara said.
"Until we get a flush of new grass growth, it is still a risk, particularly in the rural environment."
The restricted fire season that came into force on December 6 was reviewed weekly, but was unlikely to be lifted until March or April, Mr McNamara said.
"We have to remember we still have our hottest month to come," he said.
Fine grasses dried out very quickly and had very little moisture in them, making them susceptible to catching fire that could quickly spread. A few days of rain was a temporary respite, Mr McNamara said.
"As long as there is dry grass, there is still a fire risk."
Marlborough had experienced a relatively quiet period in terms of fire in the past few weeks, which Mr McNamara put down to people doing the right thing.
"People in this area are pretty savvy when it comes to fire, especially when they've experienced it first-hand."
Mr McNamara coordinated the firefighting from the air during the Boxing Day blazes in 2000. About a dozen helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were involved in putting out the fires.
"I've seen those fires and other large fires here and in Australia and the United States," he said.
"It's a dangerous beast when it gets going."
Blenheim chief fire officer Rob Dalton said people should be aware that the fire risk was still high.
Blenheim volunteer firefighters were called out to Wither Rd last Tuesday about 8.30pm after reports of a rubbish fire. While a fire permit was required during the restricted season, the person responsible for the contained rubbish fire elected to put it out and no damage was done, Mr Dalton said.
Just because there was rain, it did not mean the fire restric- tion had been lifted, Mr Dalton said.
"The danger of fires is not over.
"You only need a couple of days of sun and wind and we are back to where we started," Mr Dalton said.
RESTRICTIONS IN FORCE
The Restricted Fire Season came into force on December 6, and is in place until further notice.
Fire permits are required for all fires in the open air except for the following: Gas-fired barbecues.
Approved incinerators that have a chimney or spark guard fitted to stop sparks from escaping.
The Marlborough Express