Water woes for rural firefighting

CHRISTINE WALSH
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014

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The Okato volunteer fire brigade is worried it may not have enough water to put out fires, despite this week's welcome rainfall.

Fire chief Jared McBride said that, if a fire broke out today, the brigade would be able to fight it but the situation was getting dire.

"Judging by what the local council says with the Mangatete Stream getting low, we could be looking down the barrel of some serious problems if it doesn't rain soon," McBride said.

A total hose ban remains in place in Okato despite this week's rain, and MetService is not forecasting significant rain until next week at the earliest.

McBride said that, if a fire occurred in rural areas, water to fight it was usually sourced from streams and rivers nearby, and those were getting low too.

New Plymouth District Council manager of water and wastes Mark Hall said the need for there to be sufficient water in the Okato reservoir to fight fires was one of the reasons water restrictions were introduced.

He said the Okato brigade should have enough water to fight any fire in the township itself.

This week's rain meant water levels had risen in the Mangatete Stream, but not enough to rescind the hose ban. The district council was continuing to monitor water levels, Hall said.

"We expect it [the improvement] only to be temporary," he said.

Kaitake Community Board chairman Doug Hislop said he was sure fire services worked closely with the district and councils to make sure they had a contingency plan should a fire break out during a dry period.

"Mobile tankers are also available, if needed," he said.

Taranaki Federated Farmers dairy chairman Bryce Kaiser said most farmers did not have a plan in case of a fire and with the water levels so low "we would have to cart and carry water in".

Kaiser said most farmers were now realising that, if the owner of the property could not control a blaze fairly quickly, "we may be faced with having to let the fire burn itself out".

That would apply if it was the family home, he said.

"It's sad because it's someone's home but it's more economical than installing a bore."

Christine Walsh is a Witt journalism student

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- Taranaki Daily News

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