Extreme fire risk in NZ could more than double

Extreme fire risk in NZ could more than double | Insurance Business

Extreme fire risk in NZ could more than double

The Nelson region, as well as other parts of the country, is likely to see more wildfire events in the future, says one expert.

Modelling of potential future changes in fire danger indicates that the number of severe fire weather days is likely to increase in many parts of the country. With Nelson’s case, it could increase to 12-13 days per year or maybe 20-25 days in the worst years with climate change, according to Scion Rural Fire Research Group fire scientist Grant Pearce.

He mentioned reports from fire managers, which suggest current fire danger levels are the highest they’ve seen in almost 20 years, as well as NIWA’s soil moisture maps that show significant soil moisture deficits across the region.

“The very hot, dry and windy weather over the past month has had a major effect on the drying of forest fuels in particular, including slash and prunings, understorey scrub vegetation, pine needle litter on the ground and organic material in the soil, which all contribute to the amount of vegetation fuel available to burn,” Pearce explained. “These dry, elevated fuel loads contribute to easy fire ignition and spread, and to high fire intensities including crown fires that are very difficult, if not impossible, to control, especially in steeper terrain often favoured for forestry plantings.

“Surrounding grass fuels are also dry, but the lower fuel loads mean that fires are usually easier to control once they spread out into these grass areas,” he added.