Fire risk still high, firefighters say

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Stay vigilant and be careful is the message from Central Otago firefighters over the summer period.

Cromwell volunteer fire brigade chief fire officer Steve Shaw said the fire risk was extreme and a total fire ban was still in place across Central Otago.

“Our focus is on keeping everybody safe,” he said.

Fireworks were one issue Mr Shaw wanted to highlight, as they could be dangerous and it was unpredictable where they could land.

“They can end up in spouting, dry lawns or on woodpiles,” Mr Shaw said.

Cromwell deputy chief fire officer Neil Gillespie said Cromwell had been lucky over the holiday season but the fire risk was still very high.

“Don’t think ‘it won’t happen to me’,” Mr Gillespie said.

“The risk is too great and the consequences are too great.”

Cromwell firefighters were called to help with the huge bushfire at the base of Mt Alpha in Wanaka last week, which took five days to extinguish and burned almost 200ha of scrubland.

“There’s enough examples that have happened over the Christmas holiday season that just shows you how quick something that can start out small can get really, really big and cause pain and suffering and grief to people,” he said.

Mr Gillespie said the bus fire at the Jones Family Fruit Stall in Cromwell was caused by a hot exhaust on bark chips.

“And you go and look at that and say who would have thought of that?

“That shows you how easy something can happen.”

One example of an activity people should be aware of was mowing dry grass, he said.

“You hit a rock or a stone and that’s a huge big risk.

“People just think that happens on farms but it can happen anywhere.”

Mr Gillespie reminded people to be aware of how dry everything was, and to be very careful of activities that could cause problems.

“Things like fireworks or any outdoor solid fuel barbecues, those sorts of things, open fires, fireplaces, lakeshore barbecues – just all recipes for disaster,” he said.