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A fire ban will apply across the Queenstown Lakes District from midnight Friday 10 December 2010, Queenstown Lakes District Council principal rural fire officer Gordon Bailey said.
“The prohibited fire season will apply to all areas of the district including all settlements and townships and all Department of Conservation land and fire safety margins until further notice,” Mr Bailey said.
From 10 December, the only fires that would be permitted were electric or gas barbeques in properly constructed containers and fires in approved, purpose-built, permanent surrounds. All issued fire permits are withdrawn as of today.
“With the high temperatures and winds we have been experiencing conditions are now extremely dry. People need to take extreme precautions, particularly with cigarette butts, when using chainsaws and gas barbeques in open areas," he said.
It was also timely to remind visitors to Pig and Pigeon Islands on Lake Wakatipu and Ruby Island on Lake Wanaka that a total fire ban applied year round to those recreation areas.
The penalties for lighting a fire without a permit or under a prohibited fire season were severe.
“Costs to suppress the fire - including man hours, appliances, and aircraft - and repairs for any damage caused may be sought from the person responsible but of course we would prefer to have no fire at all,” Mr Bailey said.
The total ban has been jointly declared by the Council and the Department of Conservation.
Meanwhile severe fire weather conditions were forecast for the district and neighbouring Central Otago this weekend from midday Friday through until Sunday, with strong winds and temperatures reaching upwards of 30 degrees.
“People will need to exercise extreme caution,” he said.