Worry as risk of fire grows

Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013

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The fire service in South Canterbury is urging people to take extreme care.

A grass fire, possibly caused by sparks from a train, has highlighted how dry the district is.

With hot, dry conditions forecast for another five days, extreme fire conditions are being predicted, leading both the fire service and Department of Conservation to issue warnings.

Proving just how dry the region is becoming, there was a grass fire at Rangitata on Monday night. Geraldine firefighters and the Rangitata Rural Fire Party spent more than an hour putting it out.

Fire Service assistant area manager Phil de Joux said the Looker Rd fire could have been started by sparks from a train.

"It is drying out. There is reasonably good growth within the city too," he said of the possible fuel source for any fire.

"There are no [fire] restrictions on the coastal strip but people need to be really sensible. They need to be very, very, careful and report all fires."

If the risk became extreme the fire service would double the number of crews sent to every fire. Volunteer brigades would provide additional manpower.

"It could go to extreme [fire risk] very quickly, especially if there was a little wind."

There has been a series of minor fires in Timaru in recent days, including shrubs set ablaze at Glen and Evans St properties early on Sunday and Monday.

A restricted fire season has been in force for the South Canterbury Rural Fire district, in other than the coastal area, for five weeks.

It is illegal to light a fire within 1 kilometre of the Waimate and Geraldine forests at any time.

During the restricted fire season it is an offence to light any fires in the open air without a permit. There are exemptions for some barbecues and cooking fires at camping sites.

DOC is also warning of the fire danger, with its fire officer Tony Teeling saying one careless act could cause a devastating fire.

He is advising against off-road driving, hot outdoor work such as grinding and welding, and use of motorised equipment including mowers, chainsaws and scrub bars.

MetService is forecasting 28 degrees Celsius for Timaru today, 31C tomorrow, 28C on Friday, 24C on Saturday and 27C on Sunday. The predicted temperatures remain in the mid-20s at the start of the new week, but with rain.

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- The Timaru Herald

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