Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Firefighters prepare across NZ as risk spikes early

Firefighters prepare across NZ as fire risk spikes early

Tracy Neal, Nelson Reporter

It's not yet summer but parts of the central South Island are reaching extreme fire risk levels.

Firefighters at Tasman fire. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

With parts of New Zealand becoming tinder dry much earlier than usual, a Fire and Emergency spokesperson says stricten parts of Australia show what could happen here.

Climate data shows that strong, hot winds in parts of the country have baked the soil dry already.

NIWA forecaster Ben Knoll said the dry weather had happened sooner than normal.

"Especially in the North Island, but also eastern parts of the South Island where it's looking like it will be a very warm end to the spring and a warm start to the summer season."

Areas east of the Southern Alps are tinder dry, much earlier than usual. Fire and Emergency New Zealand said fires already in Otago had put them on alert earlier than usual.

Mr Knoll said gusty westerly winds were to blame. He said there was more to come, and coupled with a forecast lack of decent rain in coming weeks in areas most in need, the fire risk was growing.

"One of those areas is certainly the interior of the South Island and soil moisture levels are drier than normal in interior Canterbury and Otago, but there are a few other hot spots around the country including one in Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, and a third from Hawke's Bay down to the Wairarapa."

Niwa said the Tasman Sea and New Zealand coastal sea temperatures were heating up and were now above average for this time of year.

It said marine heatwave events had affected New Zealand's climate during each of the past two summers and the organisation would be observing the trend closely.

Isaia Piho, of Fenz in Otago-Southland, said the Tasman fires provided valuable training for many. He said recent scrub fires in his region had prompted earlier planning than usual.

"When it comes to making sure we have the right response capability within the region to manage events ... it's a reality that we cannot change what's happening with the climate - we just have to work smarter with it," Mr Piho said.

Mr Piho said fire-stricken parts of Australia, where six people have died since September and hundreds of homes destroyed, were an indication of what could happen here - on a lesser scale but no less damaging.

"If we've got longer, drier seasons and the vegetation right across our landscape is not as resilient to fire as what it has been then yes, the fire danger could very much be equal to what we are seeing over in Australia."

It comes after last summer brought the country's largest wildfire in more than half a century. The Pigeon Valley fires in Tasman District in February - sparked by a tractor working in a dry stony paddock - burned more than 2000 hectares of commercial plantation forest, property, and pasture.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) has since been advised to develop a nationally consistent framework for tactical fire planning.

It was one of 12 key recommendations of an independent review of the Tasman forest fire response.

Forestry companies in Otago and Tasman have primed their firefighting equipment.

More than half the land burned in the Pigeon Valley fires belonged to Tasman Pine Forests.

Chief operating officer Steve Chandler said they had increased this year's budget for upgrading firefighting equipment, and preparations for the fire season were now well under way.

Tasman Pine Forests chief operating officer
Steve Chandler preparations for the fire season
are well under way. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

"We're doing a lot of work in terms of getting our fire ponds within the forest prepared and ready, in terms of making sure they have good access.

"We've also just purchased a new fire engine that will be deployed, and portable fire tanks for the back of our utilities [vehicles]."

Wenita Forest Products head David Cormack said the fire danger was currently moderate, but it could quickly spike due to the hot and windy conditions.

Mr Cormack said all crews were on notice.

"All of our crews go to a pre fire season checklist, making sure that their machines are cleaned down - to make sure there's no debris in any places on the machine that might catch fire," he said.

"They've all been through plenty of fire seasons now, so they know what to do."

Mr Knoll said the strong westerlies were forecast to continue for the next month or two.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On Why The Supreme Court Is A Bigger Threat Than Trump To US Democracy

If you need a chilling reminder of how weirdly different the United States is to New Zealand…then abortion rights is the place to start. Last Friday, in a case called Hopkins vs Jegley , the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of the ... More>>


The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

Dunne Speaks: It's Time For Matariki Day

The period of Matariki, the celebration of the Māori New Year, which began earlier this week, is being celebrated increasingly as an important national event. While many other countries have their own form of New Year celebrations, Matariki is uniquely ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Why We Shouldn’t Be Pushed Into Re-Opening Our Borders

I believe in yesterday as much as Paul McCartney, but it was bemusing to see the amount of media attention lavished last week on the pandemic-related musings by former government science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman, former Prime Minister Helen Clark ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Welcome Deaths: Coronavirus And The Open Plan Office

For anybody familiar with that gruesome manifestation of the modern work place, namely the open plan office, the advent of coronavirus might be something of a relief. The prospects for infection in such spaces is simply too great. You are at risk from ... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Why Thinking Makes It So: Donald Trump’s Obamagate Fixation

The “gate” suffix has been wearing thin since the break-in scandal that gave it its birth. Since Watergate, virtually anything dubious and suggestive, and much more besides, is suffixed. Which brings us to the issue of President Donald Trump’s ... More>>