Bonfires trigger brigade calls

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012

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Lighting a bonfire in the backyard isn't the best thing to do, as two sets of partygoers found out on Saturday.

And it meant firefighters once again found themselves the "meat in the sandwich".

The first call came to a bonfire at a property on The Avenue in Pareora shortly before 5pm. As there is no reticulated water in the township two appliances and two tankers were sent to what turned out to be a bonfire covering an area about two square metres, fire brigade senior station officer Garry Parker said.

About 20 people were at the property but there were no issues when the firefighters put the fire out. An hour later the fire brigade were called to a Rothwell St property where a similar number of people had gathered and there was also a bonfire. That fire was also put out.

He questioned whether Saturday, being national (beer) crate day, was the reason for the two bonfires so early in the day.

Mr Parker said firefighters have no option but to put out a fire on a property which is less than half a hectare in size or is causing a smoke nuisance. District council bylaws and ECan rules also prohibit a range of fires.

If those rules were to be strictly adhered to then even a fire in a brazier or an outdoor pizza oven would not be allowed, Mr Parker said.

Firefighters have little choice but to put out a fire if it breaches the rules. He recalled an incident in which the firefighters considered a bonfire to be safe and chose not to extinguish it. Twenty minutes later they received a call from ECan stating it had to be put out as it breached their rules.

"We are the meat in the sandwich. We are not popular when we turn up to put a bonfire out," Mr Parker said, explaining how in the past staff had bottles thrown at them and had been spat out.

"It makes you feel like the Christmas grinch."

If the fire was not endangering property and was more of a nuisance issue, he suggested people contact ECan first. When the fire brigade was called to such an incident, ECan staff visited and explained the rules to the occupants.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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