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Reminder fires remain prohibited in region

After several fires in the region over the weekend, Fire and Emergency New Zealand [FENZ] is reminding people that Wairarapa is still in a prohibited fire season and to call 111 immediately if they see smoke or fire.

Firefighters responded to two incidents over the weekend involving purposefully lit fires, which are currently illegal.

One of these was an incinerator being used to burn household and garden waste, while the second callout was for a rubbish fire.

FENZ Wairarapa area assistant commander Craig Cottrill said the people responsible likely weren’t aware the region is in a prohibited fire season.

Cottrill also wanted to stress that people need to call 111 when they see smoke or flames, after weekend incidents in which fires were reported via social media or by calling a firefighter directly.

“If you see fire or smoke, particularly at this time of year, don’t be afraid to phone 111.”

Any other method of reporting fires could slow down fire brigades’ response time,” Cottrill said.

“The sooner we get to a fire, the sooner we can minimise the impact on the environment.

“At this time of the year, any smoke is a wildfire or an illegal fire.”

Wairarapa’s coastal area – spanning all the way from Ngāwī to Castlepoint – remains the driest part of the region, Cottrill said.

Given the summer season includes several public holidays when people are likely to hit the beaches and parks for barbecues and family fun, Cottrill also recommended that people use gas barbecues rather than charcoal, while emphasising there are still plenty of other options.

“It’s hot. Take some cold sandwiches in a chilly bin and have a nice ham sandwich and a cold beer, instead” he said.

It is important that everybody participating in outdoor activities is “careful with anything that may generate a spark”.

Rural parts of Wairarapa also pose additional challenges when putting out large fires where water sources or the fire itself aren’t easily accessible.

Cottrill also noted that, although a tanker is always sent to rural callouts, knowing where there is an open water source is important.

It’s a huge help when people with local knowledge direct firefighters to nearby water, he said.

If somebody with local knowledge of the area calls in an incident, it is always useful for them to help point out access routes to open water sources.

Firefighters were also kept busy by the storms that blew through the region over the past few days, responding to reports of flooding as well as downed powerlines that sparked a grass fire.

All of Wairarapa moved to a prohibited fire season on January 23, and the restrictions remain in place until further notice.

A prohibited fire season means no open-air fires are allowed, and all existing permits have been revoked.

For further information, and tips on how to stay ‘fire safe’, go to www.checkitsalright.nz

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