Nelson MP Nick Smith is urging heightened public caution with fire risk levels in the region, the worst in a decade and hot dry weather forecast for the next week.
“The Nelson Tasman region is entering a danger zone with fire risk that requires extreme caution. The wet spring means we have ample fuel and the hot dry westerly winds of the past week have created the worst conditions for fire risk in a decade.
“We are not immune from the sort of horrific fires that have caused fatalities in places like Portugal, California and Australia. We need to heed the messages of Fire and Emergency New Zealand and our rural fire officers on fire bans and closed areas.
“I have not seen conditions this vulnerable or our fire staff so nervous since 2001. The areas of most concern are coastal forests like Rabbit Island, the eastern side of the Takaka Hill and Hira, where the Fire Service has classified the risk as very high or extreme. We have indicators like soil moisture levels in these areas as low as 14% and ground temperatures at over 26C, and they look horribly similar to those of the 2017 Port Hills fire in Christchurch.
“I am particularly nervous about the need for careful risk management of the Luminate Summer Festival involving thousands of campers in the Canaan Downs starting on Wednesday for eight days. We need to communicate to these festival goers the extreme fire risk and the need for them to respect the complete fire ban in this area. We want them to be safe and for them to pose no risk of fire to the adjacent forested park.
Fire and Emergency NZ is doing everything possible to manage the heightened fire risk but they cannot do it alone. It is a good thing we have a new integrated fire service with the merger of our rural fire parties and the NZ Fire Service. Until we get rain or cooler temperatures, we need everybody on alert and being extra cautious.”