Deliberately lit rubbish fires upset Otago authority

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MATT.TSO

@thenews.co.nz

The Otago Rural Fire Authority is warning people to adhere to the total fire ban in Central Otago after responding to several recent rubbish fires.

Deputy principal rural fire officer Pete Scarlet said the Otago Rural Fire Authority had responded to three deliberately lit rubbish fires in the last week. He believed landowners were becoming complacent after recent rainfall.

He warned the public that despite the rain, conditions were very dry, and vegetation and other fuels were still susceptible to burning if exposed to fire.

The total fire ban covering all Central Otago which came into effect on January 14 prohibits all open fires but the ban does allow the lighting of gas barbecues.

Mr Scarlet said apart from the danger of fires becoming uncontrollable, there was a significant financial cost associated in attending call-outs which could be passed on to those responsible for the fires.

Call-outs also disrupted fire crews, which were staffed by volunteers. Between one to three crews, or about five to 15 people, were often required to attend call-outs which took them away from work and family commitments, he said.

Federated Farmers Otago provincial president Phill Hunt said the practice of burning rubbish on rural properties had been declining in recent years because of the risk of fires getting out of control.

“Farmers are aware that fire is a real danger and most people have changed their behaviour. Society has changed with the times and people are more responsible to the environment.”

Mr Hunt encouraged everyone, not just farmers, to abide by the fire restrictions.

Mr Scarlet said some of those caught burning rubbish told crews they were unaware of the fire ban. He urged people to check the Otago Rural Fire Authority website or call them to confirm the current fire season status.

The prohibited fire season will remain in place until further notice.

If you want to check the status of the fire season, information can be found on www.otagoruralfire.org.nz or the Otago Rural Fire Authority can be contacted on 0800 673 473.