Commenting on the ban, Wellington District community risk manager Phil Soal said the risk of fire-related danger in the area has escalated.
“We have experienced a hot, windy, and dry summer which has dried out vegetation and this weather is forecast to continue for the coming weeks. Current weather conditions mean if a vegetation fire was to start, it would be difficult to manage,” he said.
“Activities such as mowing, operating machinery, cutting, or welding steel can be hazardous and should be carried out during cooler parts of the day.”
With Saturday marking Lunar New Year, Soal said the potential use of fireworks and sky lanterns is simply too risky.
“We are encouraging people to celebrate safely without fireworks or sky lanterns. All it takes to start a large fire is a small spark.”
Canterbury District commander Dave Stackhouse echoed that sentiment, noting it has been a very busy start to the year with several significant fires across the Canterbury region.
“There is little to no relief in the forecast for the next two months and the predicted hot, dry, and windy conditions will continue to dry out vegetation even further,” he said.
“We are facing an ongoing increase in fire danger and any ignition or spark can quickly turn into a dangerous wildfire that can significantly impact life, property, and our communities.”
The region is in a prohibited fire season, which means there is a total ban on all fires in the open air. The Canterbury Fire District is the geographical area including Selwyn, Waimakariri, Hurunui, Kaikoura District Councils and Christchurch City Council areas.
“I would like to wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year, but please celebrate this safely, without fireworks or sky lanterns. We urge the public to instead celebrate this occasion at properly organised public events like the New Year Festival event at Hagley Park,” Stackhouse said.
Pyrotechnics are not part of the ban as these are permitted activities with strict control measures and safety plans, they noted.
“Always call 111 straight away if you see signs of a fire – particularly in a rural area. Please don’t assume someone else will have done that. The sooner our crews are called out, the more chance we have of containing a fire quickly and limiting the damage,” Soal added.
“If you’re in any doubt whether it’s OK to light an outdoor fire anywhere, please go to www.checkitsalright.nz – there is a lot of safety advice there too.”
Stackhouse urged Cantabrians to remain cautious in the hot, dry conditions and not carry out activities that pose a fire risk, such as mowing, welding, and driving through long grass.
People can also take simple steps to make their properties easier to defend against fire, including:
- clearing flammable material from 10m around homes and buildings
- moving firewood stacked against houses
- clearing gutters of dried leaves that will easily catch fire
- clearing flammable material from under decks
- trimming trees and bushes and removing the trimmings
- keeping grass short (but mow during the early morning when it’s cooler and use a trimmer with a nylon line, which is safer than a mower or trimmer with a metal blade that could create a spark).
Currently fireworks bans are in place in Ahipara township and surrounds, Karikari Peninsula, Ripiro Beach, Mackenzie Basin, Central Otago, Naseby, Upper Waitaki, Lake Ōhau, Otago Lakes and Glendhu Bluffs, Canterbury, Kaikōura, Wellington, Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa.
Restrictions may be added in additional locations as the fire risk changes. You can stay up-to-date with current restrictions and check out more fire safety tips by visiting www.checkitsalright.nz.