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Another burn-off gets out of hand

Fire and emergency services [Fenz] were called to a controlled burn-off that had got out of hand on Thursday afternoon – the second such callout this week.

Two units from Masterton [including one tanker] attended the callout to Kaiwhata Valley Road with a tanker from Carterton, and rural units from both Riversdale and Wainuioru in tow.

A firefighter on the scene confirmed that the fire “wasn’t well involved” when they arrived and only took about 20 minutes to get under control.

About 16 people were on the scene to help put the fire out, dampen the surrounding area, and look for any hotspots – a process that took about two hours.

One of the fire crew who responded to the call said they were very lucky there wasn’t much wind as the fire was already at risk of spreading further into scrubland.

If the wind had picked up any more, “it would have been a different story”, they said.

Fenz Wairarapa group manager Craig Cottrill said this is a timely reminder for people to be vigilant with any fires they set.

He recommends that anybody planning a controlled burn should keep it small and continuously feed it rather than piling material up.

“You light a big fire, you’re stuck with it,” Cottrill said.

While Wairarapa is currently in an open fire season, he said this status is being monitored daily and there is always the potential for it to be changed to a restricted season.

The number of controlled burns that become unmanageable without Fenz assistance can contribute to the decision to implement a fire ban.

Cottrill recommends that anybody looking to do a controlled burn check out the checkitsalright.nz website.

The website tells users the “best and safest way to burn”, Cottrill said.

Users can enter details about their planned controlled burn, and the site then takes into account predicted rainfall, air temperature, wind direction, and wind speed to calculate whether or not it will be safe.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research announced the arrival of an El Niño climate pattern in late September, which is predicted to bring dry spells, warm weather, and frequent winds.

“Wind is our enemy,” Cottrill said, because it can severely affect burning operations.

Cottrill said Fenz is likely to be busier over the next few months, especially with predictions of a dry December, and is happy to respond to any burn-offs that do get out of control.

“If you need us, phone 111 right away,” Cottrill said, adding that the earlier the call came through, the easier it would be to put out and the less damage it is likely to cause.

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