Fire and Emergency New Zealand is warning the Mackenzie Basin is “primed and ready to burn”.

The news comes as the most challenging wildfire conditions since 2008 are forecast this weekend, according to FENZ incident controller Rob Hands.

In response to the danger, FENZ has set up an incident management team in Twizel, and is anticipating very high fire danger in the Mackenzie Basin for the next four days because of the hot, dry and windy conditions forecast.

“Having the team pre-positioned in Twizel will ensure immediate support for local brigades in the event of a fire,” said FENZ.

Other steps include doubling the number of fire trucks and crews that will automatically be sent to any vegetation fire in the Mackenzie Basin.

“Two helicopters and monsoon buckets will be on standby for the next three afternoons, when the fire danger will be highest.”

A community meeting on the wildfire risk starts in the Twizel Events Centre tonight at 6.30pm.

At the same time, four teams will be going door to door in Manuka Terrace — the site of a vegetation fire on Sunday — to speak with residents about the fire risk.

Rob Hands is asking everyone living in Twizel to be aware of the high fire danger, and to take simple steps to make their own properties easier to defend against fire.

Top fire safety tips:

  • Clearing flammable material from 10m around homes and buildings.
  • Moving firewood stacked against houses
  • Clearing gutters of dried leaves etc that will easily catch fire
  • Clearing flammable material from under decks
  • Trimming trees and bushes and removing the trimmings
  • Keeping grass short (using a trimmer with a nylon line is safer in these conditions than a mower or trimmer with a metal blade that could create a spark)

“Taking these steps now to protect your property from attack by fire will go a long way to helping our firefighters if a fire does break out,” said Hands.

In 2020, a fire tore through Lake Ōhau in the Mackenzie District, which destroyed multiple homes.

Reports at the time said it was one of the most expensive fires in New Zealand history.

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