Kiwis warned against growing fire risk

by Mina Martin 16 Jan 2017

Kiwis warned against growing fire risk

Don’t let the wet weather and the green fields lull you into complacency. The threat of fire is real, and it’s growing day by day, Kiwis have been warned.
 
In a Stuff report, Allan Grigg, Hurunui District principal rural fire officer, said that while the possibility of a fire as devastating as the Victorian bush fires is scary, there is a window in which something could be done.
 
For one, Grigg said people should be just as cautious around fire in green fields as they would if the fields were dry and brown. He said the fresh green color was a deceptive fire risk, and urged property owners to remove as much of this potential fire fuel as they can.
 
“I certainly understand that they can’t clear hectares and hectares... but what they can do is clear defensive areas around farm buildings and houses, to help break the continuity of fuel,” he said.
 
Grigg said that just by clearing every second or third paddock of high grass, owners are giving firefighters a chance to extinguish the fire before it becomes unstoppable, that is, before it reaches a certain heat and speed. An unstoppable fire would leave fire fighters with little option but to evacuate the area in the fire’s path, he told Stuff.
 
To reduce the risk of an unstoppable fire, Grigg recommended cutting the fields in the morning or evening, if there is a dew, and before February.
 
Tim Sheppard, Waimakariri District principal rural fire officer, told the publication it was amazing how low fire rated as a risk in people’s minds.
 
“We think about earthquakes, snowstorms, and wind storms but we don’t think of fire as a general hazard, until we get one.
 
“We’ve had a lot of little fires, but we’ve been jumping on them pretty quick. We can’t afford to let them get away on us in these conditions.”
 
In addition, people are urged to take up insurance to protect them against significant losses from putting out the fire.
 
The New Zealand Fire Service would attend a fire for one hour free of charge. The rest of the costs would be paid by the “owner” of the fire or whoever started the fire, the report said.
 
“If you have regular fires, it pays to have insurance. The costs can be pretty horrendous if you’re dealing with helicopters at $2,000 an hour,” Sheppard told Stuff.
 

Related stories:
Business community speaks out against fire levy changes
ICA, fire services warn against bushfire underinsurance