Ashburton District Council has declared a Restricted Fire Season for the Ashburton Plains, effective midnight 23 February.
The Prohibited Fire Season, (total fire ban), in the Hill and High Country remains in place until further notice.
Recent rain events and a helpful short-term weather forecast have enabled the move back to a Restricted Fire Season for the Ashburton Plains, however Ashburton District Principal Rural Fire Officer Don Geddes is advising that the change is potentially only temporary.
"Although the rain we've had lately has temporarily eased the risk, the underlying conditions are still extremely dry so the change back to a restricted fire season may only be for a short period, especially with a few weeks of summer still ahead of us.
"I'm asking farmers to be considerate of firefighters, neighbours and ECan when it comes to stubble burns - perhaps limiting the number of burns they do on any given day. They also need to avoid burning during the hottest part of the day when fire behaviour will be more extreme.
"If people need to burn stubble, it's critical that they exercise more caution than they would during a typical restricted fire season. And if people don't comply with the rules, we may very well revert back to a total fire ban again."
During a restricted fire season, all fires require permits, with the sole exceptions of crop residue burning, (which is managed under a blanket 'authority' with a fixed set of twelve conditions), hangis, and fires in enclosed drums – which also have a set of fixed conditions.
People are reminded that the cost of extinguishing any escaped fire and any fire damage lies squarely on the shoulders of the person responsible for the fire – including damage done to other people's properties.
"This is the time when farm staff need to be reminded about fire safety precautions, especially if they are burning stubble - they need to be extra careful.
"While there are 12 conditions and recommendations relating to stubble burning, there are four key conditions, which under the current circumstances require extra vigilance. These include:
- Excessive wind strength, either in combination with inadequate firebreaks or not, is probably the most common cause of stubble fire escapes
- Fire breaks are required to be clear of all flammable material. (Fire breaks cultivated with a grubber or maxi till are not adequate)
- There needs to be a portable water supply on site, minimum capacity 400 litres, to be able to deal with any escapes that may occur
- Supervision of the fire, both during and after the burn, will allow early detection of any fire escape.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to emphasise that there is still an elevated risk and all farmers need to be aware of this and exercise the appropriate increased level of caution when burning stubble."
Staff will continue to closely monitor the situation over the next couple of weeks, in particular, farmer behaviour with stubble burning. The total fire ban will be reinstated if people are not complying with the fire restrictions.