Firefighters battle false alarms

111 calls over burnoffs waste firefighters' time

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 16:58 01/03/2013
Stubble burnoff
Max Middleton

UNDER CONTROL: A stubble burnoff creates huge clouds near Rakaia.

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Canterbury firefighters are responding to up to five false alarms a day from people reporting harmless paddock burnoffs.

Selwyn principal rural fire officer Wilson Brown said the Fire Service was ''wasting time and resources'' on callouts that are actually farmers burning off crop residue, which are ''restrictively controlled stubble burnoffs''.

''Stubble burns have these great big plumes of smoke when you see them, they look diabolical. But in most cases they're very safe,'' he said.

''A lot of people who don't understand see smoke and the moment they do they dial 111 and report it.

"So the Fire Service then has the report and they have got to send the fire crews out there, but the farmer is there doing a very good job."

This year had been the worst year for the false callouts, and they were responding to up to five false alarms a day.

"It's become more prevalent this year because of people's awareness of how bad the fire danger is and the three of four major fires we've had.

"We have to go out and check it out. We can't take that risk that the fire is not a wild fire just down the road.''

He acknowledged that the public were being proactive in exercising fire safety, but as firefighters were all volunteers, it stretched their resources.

''We're trying to educate the public on what a stubble fire is now. If you see a stubble fire and you think it looks OK then please don't call it in,'' he said.

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