Rubbish burnoffs vex fire service

Fire crews battle the 2009 blaze in Dry Weather Rd in the Tadmor Valley, Glenhope. It was started by fireplace ashes.
Fire crews battle the 2009 blaze in Dry Weather Rd in the Tadmor Valley, Glenhope. It was started by fireplace ashes.

The risk of backyard fires burning out of control is amplified in the lead-up to summer as people underestimate hot, dry winds and low humidity, the rural fire service warns.

The huge blaze on the Wither Hills in Blenheim on Sunday was a warning of how quickly fire can spread this time of year, Waimea Rural Fire Authority principal officer Ian Reade said.

There have been at least five cases of rubbish burnoffs getting out of control in the Tasman District in the past month in Mapua, Riwaka, Hira, Brightwater and the Coastal Highway.

Reade said October and November, known to the fire service as the shoulder season, were notorious for scrub fires.

"It's not full-blown dry summer and it's when people let their guard down when they're burning off," he said.

"People often see a lot of green grass around and don't realise that under that green grass can be dead grass. All we need is really fine weather and a bit of wind and anything can happen."

On a couple of days this month humidity dropped to 30 per cent and temperatures reached the mid-20s.

In those conditions, a controlled burnoff or leftover embers could ignite, causing a major fire, Reade said.

A scrub fire in the Tadmor Valley that destroyed a forest and house in November 2009 ignited from fireplace ashes that weren't disposed of correctly.

Reade said the out-of-control burnoffs this month were put out before they caused major damage.

The Nelson Mail