Fire fighters urge caution during summer

Warkworth deputy chief fire officer Shaun Pilgrim.

A restricted fire season came into force on December 1 and fire fighters across Mahurangi are still reeling from one of their busiest years.

Warkworth Volunteer Fire Brigade had over 270 callouts last year, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year. Deputy chief fire officer Shaun Pilgrim says population growth is a major factor.

“People are moving up from Auckland, predominantly for a nice, rural lifestyle, but they tend to need educating on the safety factors of lighting fires,” Mr Pilgrim says.

Restrictions in rural areas mean you need a permit to light any fire in the open air including open cooking, heating fires, braziers that do not contain all embers and sparks, hangi and umu fires, open top incinerators, controlled and prescribed burns, and bonfires.

Permits are free and online forms are available on the Auckland and Kaipara District Council websites. Allow at least five working days for a permit to be issued.

Urban area restrictions do allow small cooking or heating fires provided they are used in a safe and considerate manner.

Long dry periods with windy conditions lead to a prohibited fire season and a total fire ban. On December 14, over 15 crews attended a pine forest fire at Wright Road, Matakana, which was fanned by strong winds. Mr Pilgrim says people underestimate the potential for disaster caused by changing wind direction. The Wright Road blaze was too dangerous for fire crews to tackle and had to be controlled using water drops from helicopters.

“It’s a hazardous job tackling wildfires and they affect many people in our community. If you have any doubts please contact Council and a fire control officer will help.”