A forest fire near Nelson sparked by a tracer bullet hitting a piece of metal has highlighted the escalating fire danger as the dry, windy weather continues to dry out the Nelson-Tasman region.
Fire fighters are facing a long, hot summer with the Waimea Rural Fire Authority ramping up its state of readiness after a series of fires including the one sparked by a bullet hitting a piece of metal on Mt Duppa near Hira earlier this month. And the authority’s principal fire officer Ian Reade expects things to get worse with the El Nino weather pattern predicted to result in one of the driest summers on record.
“It’s the wind and the low humidity that is the main issue because that dries out all the fine vegetation and that’s often where the ignition starts,” Ian says. “It’s an early start to the fire season and if we don’t get significant rain before the end of the year it will get very serious.”
Fortunately, the fire on Mt Duppa only burned three-quarters of a hectare of scrub and pines thanks to “a good save by the Hira Volunteer Rural Fire Force and Nelson Fire Brigade”. Fires have also been caused by permitted burn offs “getting away” and ashes from household fires igniting vegetation – there have also been cases of extinguished fires reigniting.
Ian warned home owners to take extra precautions with ashes after a fire started by dumped ashes “took out a garden shed in Golden Bay”.
“It’s still been a bit cool at nights in some places and people are still having fires but it’s also really dry so everyone needs to extra careful about dumping ashes. The grass might look green but it’s very dry and things will still burn.”
The dry weather means the authority has already gone to the second level of preparedness and instructed forestry crews to carry fire fighting equipment and check “anything that creates heat” on their machinery.