Heat, wind fuel fear of wildfires

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2013

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Hot and dry conditions in Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa have rural fire services on high alert.

The heat combined with blustery winds has increased the fire risk in Hawke's Bay, pushing warnings to extreme in Hastings.

Already in the grip of a dry spell, Hawke's Bay is forecast to endure temperatures about the 30-degree mark for the next two days.

Rural Fire Officer Trevor Mitchell said the strong winds forecast had the potential to spread fires very quickly.

The whole of Hawke's Bay remains under a total fire ban.

Gale force winds expected to hit South Wairarapa tonight will do nothing to ease the rising temperatures the region has been dealing with since spring.

South Wairarapa rural fire officer Porkie Sexton said although the region was experiencing moderate fire risk at the moment he expected that to escalate by the end of the week.

Wellington has also been basking in warmer-than-usual conditions, and broke 30-year-old records last month.

Figures issued by Niwa yesterday show Wellington Airport hit 29.6 degrees Celsius on Christmas Day and fell only to 19.6C overnight - the highest and second-highest respectively for Christmas Day since records began in 1972.

But gale-force winds capable of toppling trees and powerlines are destined for the capital today.

Gusts of 140kmh are forecast to hammer Wellington until tomorrow afternoon, the MetService said.

Niwa is also predicting the long hot days on the East Coast will continue for months.

Parts of Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa received less than 50 per cent of their normal rainfall in December while coastal areas were lucky if they received 30 per cent.

Some farmers have removed stock as paddocks dried out.

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- The Dominion Post

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