'Be vigilant' - rural fire chief

FIRE WARNING: Lighting a fire in dry conditions with strong winds can be disastrous.
FIRE WARNING: Lighting a fire in dry conditions with strong winds can be disastrous.

It's early in the season but scrub fires are already taking a toll.

Three helicopters three fire trucks and a team of rural firefighters fought a 10-hectare blaze at Mitimiti in North Hokianga at the weekend, bringing it under control.

They were still monitoring it on Monday.

Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor warns about lighting fires when there is a strong wind blowing.

"Our message is to be vigilant. Wind is a big issue and lighting a fire in such conditions can be disastrous," he said.

Sarah Watson of Te Reinga Bay thanks the chopper pilot, and Hihi and Karikari volunteer fire brigades who saved her house after a scrub fire broke out at Hihi, Doubtless Bay, last Wednesday. She too issues a warning.

"It's dry already. Take safety precautions. Clear around your fire. Have lots of water on hand. Make sure the fire is out. I believed the fire was out as there was no smoke coming from it. A few hours later a wind came up, I smelled smoke - too late. This happens so fast.

"I am lucky to have my life, my house and a relatively small area of charred ground. Beware fire is ferocious. If in doubt don't light the fire, ring the local fire brigade to see if it is ok."

Rural fires across Northland in the past five years took two the lives of two firefighters and amounted to more than $7 million.

The Rural Fire Authority has a policy of taking a hard line by seeking to recover full costs from those responsible for setting fires which race out of control.

A tough line last summer kept costs down and prevented a repeat of the disastrous 2011-12 fire season.

Northern News