No need for ban

ANNA PRICE
Last updated 09:55 23/01/2013
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Selwyn Civil Defence head Douglas Marshall at the scene of recent fires near Prebbleton.

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Selwyn Civil  Defence boss Douglas Marshall says there is no need for a blanket fire ban despite the latest blaze that wiped out a second plantation and scorched across the Army's West Melton firing range.

Firefighters and Defence personnel were still monitoring the 20-hectare site of Saturday's fire which continued to smoulder early this week.


It was the second big blaze in 10 days at an Environment Canterbury plantation. Firefighters were called to the block near the intersection of Weedons Ross Rd and Rifle Range Rd at 3.40pm.


Mr Marshall, fire incident controller, said a total fire ban was not considered necessary.


"Not at this stage, " he said.


"The indices we use for weather and drought code don't indicate the need for a prohibitive season."

Those with a permit to light fires in the current restricted season were required to have a 10-metre fire break and to monitor the fire, he said.


On-site firefighting equipment was also required and neighbouring properties must be advised.


A fire permit is a written, signed document which binds the holder to comply with the rules.

"Just ringing and saying you want one is not a reason to be granted a fire permit.


"Farmers know that this is obviously an important allowance that has been put in place for them.


"Anyone else who lights a fire, that fire will be put out, and that property owner will be charged $1000 an hour by the council and fire service to put that fire out, " Mr Marshall said.


If helicopters, diggers and other specialist crew and equipment were called in, costs could spike to $9000 an hour.

Since restrictions came into force on Christmas Eve, rural fire crews had been called to 18 fires, 10 of them lit without a permit, up to two weeks ago.


Conditions had been dangerous, with high temperatures, high winds and tinder-dry ground.


Mr Marshall said the public must remain alert to anything unusual.

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