Time to take extra care with fire

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A NEAR THING: The danger posed by wildfires was exemplified at Waima last summer, when a major suspicious blaze, lit during the closed season, burned within metres of buildings and animals.
A NEAR THING: The danger posed by wildfires was exemplified at Waima last summer, when a major suspicious blaze, lit during the closed season, burned within metres of buildings and animals.

Recent weeks have seen significantly more rain in the Far North than this time last year, but the Northern Rural Fire Authority is getting the message out now - take care when lighting fires, and don't light them at all during a restricted or closed season.

An early warning was provided by a blaze off State Highway 12 at Waima three weeks ago, the flames destroying approximately 1.5 hectares of scrub behind the Goldfish Cafe.

Appliances from the Rawene and Kaikohe fire brigades responded, the blaze at one point threatening a house that was separated from the fire only by the road.

A light but variable wind added to the intensity and unpredictability of the fire, principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said, and it was the good work of both brigades that contained then extinguished it, after some two hours.

The exact cause of the fire was not known, but Mr Taylor suggested it was fair to say that carelessness had been a factor.

And it was a timely reminder of how easy it was for wildfires to get away.

"This is the third fire in this small region this year alone, and the local people need to take notice," he added.

"The community has a responsibility to take care of its own. Carry on with this behaviour and it is only a matter of time before the consequences are disastrous."

A wet winter might have made people complacent, he said, but while the ground might appear damp, potential fire fuel could be quite dry, especially after wind.

Caution must had to be taken around kikuyu, as fire could travel below the surface, undetected.

Mr Taylor recommended that a clear area be kept around a fire, that wind direction and speed be checked, and that embers not be allowed to spread away from the fire.

"Keep an eye on the fire, and if you need to go away, put it out. Golden rule - if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't," he added.

The Northern Rural Fire Authority would be more than happy to discuss safe fire practices with communities, and individuals if necessary. "It is our duty to help you keep your property safe," Mr Taylor said.

- Northland Age

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