Sparks from mowers and harvesters have been known to start fires over dry summers. PHOTO/FILE

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

Hot weather and dry vegetation have forced a change in Wairarapa’s fire status – meaning people will now have to apply for a permit to light a fire.

Wairarapa and Tararua districts moved to restricted fire season on Monday, principal rural fire officer Nick Pyatt said.

“Although we’ve had a bit of rain in the past 24 hours, conditions are drier in our vegetation which means we need to put a few controls around where people burn, and what they’re burning, and have a conversation with them around the safest way to do that.”

Pyatt said the fire service had dealt with a few fires that had got out of control in vegetation – which was typical of this time of year.

“Whether it’s mowing a dry lawn or harvesting hay, just be aware of the conditions you’re doing it in,” he said.

“We had about four fires last summer that were started by mower strikes.

“The Pigeon Valley fire in Nelson was started by a mower, so that’s the big danger for us.”

Pyatt said the length of the restricted season would depend on weather conditions.

“If we go right through without any rain and the fire danger increases, we might have to look at going into what we call a prohibited season, which is essentially a total fire ban.”

If someone wants to light a fire, they should go to www.checkitsalright.nz to apply for a permit.

“It’s simple – you just jump on the web and give some simple information – where you are, your address, what you’re burning, and allow three to five working days to process.”

Fire services would be reluctant to issue a permit if they’re burning “heavy fuels” such as big logs, Pyatt said.

“Those are the sorts of fires that can take a while to fully extinguish – they could burn underground and be a trouble for us in a month.”

Pyatt encouraged people to enjoy the season “in a responsible way” and if they do have concerns or questions to visit www.checkitsalright.nz.