Birdlings Flat fireworks fizzle

EXTINGUISHED: Birdlings Flat residents put out a bonfire they set up as part of Guy Fawkes celebrations.
EXTINGUISHED: Birdlings Flat residents put out a bonfire they set up as part of Guy Fawkes celebrations.

Fire regulations put an end to Guy Fawkes celebrations at Birdlings Flat last night.

Resident Ian Robertson said about 40 children and their parents gathered on Birdlings Flat to set off fireworks last night, and a bonfire was set up.

It was an annual tradition, he said.

But shortly after the bonfire had been lit, fire crews from Little River arrived and ordered it be extinguished.

Robertson said they were told the fire had to be put out because it was on Department of Conservation land and they did not have a permit.

"There were some sad faces [from the children]. I never, ever thought that regulation would go this far. It's regulation overkill," he said.

The group moved the celebrations to a parent's property.

"We turned it around and had a reasonable evening," he said.

But Robertson felt it would have been safer setting off the fireworks on the stoney Birdlings Flat.

Christchurch City Council principal rural fire officer Darrin Woods said the rules regarding fires "can be very confusing".

Woods said DOC imposed a year-round restricted fire season and fire permits were required at all times.

"These conditions can extend to areas up to 1km surrounding public conservation lands," he said.

A permit was also always required to light a bonfire on a beach, Woods said.

"Where unpermitted fires do occur on the beach they will be extinguished, which commits fire fighting resources away from the communities that they are responsible for protecting."

In residential areas, there is a year-round ban on backyard burning under Environment Canterbury Clean Air rules, he said.

"This is further augmented by council by-laws. Fines can be imposed on people that chose to light outdoor fires in residential areas."

In rural areas, fires may be permitted but only on if they are attended at all times, have access to running water, and are totally extinguished before parties leave the site, he said.

"As conditions dry out, restricted seasons are imposed, which require permits to be issued for any fire. This can then become a prohibited season where all fires are banned."

Woods recommended people approach their local fire authority to determine the rules for their area.

He said people needed to realise if they lit a fire that got away and damaged property, or threatened neighbouring properties, they were liable for the damages and the cost of extinguishing the fire.

The Press