National | Weather

Long hot summer: FENZ warns of wildfire risks

Flames leaping more than 10m into the air, during wildfires in Ahipara in 2020.

After a year marked by a wet summer and the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) is alerting the public about a looming threat for the upcoming summer season: wildfires.

The agency is urging whānau to prepare for increased fire risks due to a forecast of hotter, drier weather, influenced by a windier El Niño weather pattern.

Service Delivery Wildfire Manager Tim Mitchell says the anticipated El Niño conditions could worsen fire hazards, particularly on the east coasts of both the North and South Islands.

“Given this year’s flood events and wet conditions, people will likely find it difficult to understand the wildfire risk New Zealand could be facing soon,” Mitchell said.

He warned that a stretch of hot, dry, and windy weather could rapidly dry out excess vegetation, making it highly flammable.

“Ninety-eight per cent of New Zealand wildfires are caused by people and people can do a great deal to prevent wildfires occurring and to help protect themselves and their property,” he added.

FENZ is encouraging those in rural and semi-rural areas to take several precautionary measures, including keeping grass short, especially around houses and other structures; moving firewood and other flammable materials well away from residences; clearing gutters to prevent the lodging of hot embers; ensuring accessways are clear and rapid address numbers are visible; and formulating a plan of action in case of a forest or vegetation fire.

Starting this month, FENZ says it’s planning location-specific live fire danger advisories through YouTube, Google search and on social media, when the threat level is categorized as High, Very High, or Extreme.

A broader campaign will start in late September across social, online video, news sites and radio to prompt rural whānau to prepare for the fire season.

Mitchell says people should get real-time, localized fire danger levels and fire season information via MetService’s websites and apps.

Before initiating any activities that emit heat or sparks, people should consult their local fire danger level at