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Warm, windy conditions prompt fire warning - Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With warm windy conditions expected this week, householders and landowners across Canterbury and the Top of the South are being urged not to light outdoor fires during lockdown, to save firefighters having to respond to calls from anxious neighbours and break their COVID bubbles.

Christchurch Metro Area Manager Dave Stackhouse says brigades responded to 19 calls involving backyard fires in and around Christchurch alone over the weekend.

"It’s understandable people are taking advantage of the warm weather to get on with some work around their property while they’re at home, but we would ask them not to burn their clippings and other waste just now because it puts our firefighters at risk needlessly."

Under Environment Canterbury’s Clean Air regulations, backyard burning is prohibited on properties under 2ha. Dave Stackhouse says while Fire and Emergency is not responsible for enforcing those rules, crews will respond to calls about outdoor fires and assess whether they pose a threat to life or property. Where necessary, brigades will put the fires out.

Deputy Principal Rural Fire Office Al Hutt asks farmers and lifestyle block owners to avoid burning and to check old fire sites because of the strong, warm nor-westers expected for most of this week. "Any escaped fire, however minor, will put our crews at risk. So please check carefully to make sure your old fires are completely out, and don’t light any new fires while we are in lockdown."

South Canterbury Area Manager Steve Greenyer says even well controlled burns are a problem during lockdown. "People see the smoke, they get anxious and call 111. Then our volunteer firefighters have to break their bubbles to respond."

Mr Greenyer says brigades will always turn out to 111 calls and had the protective gear and procedures to do this safely. "Just now, however, we would really appreciate it if the public get behind their local firefighters and wait until we are out of lockdown before lighting outdoor fires."

Tasman-Marlborough Area Manager Grant Haywood says there are a few situations where outdoor fires could be classed as essential during lockdown, such as for biosecurity reasons, and in those cases brigades would work with landowners to ensure this could be done safely.

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