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ry weather and the increased fire risk have forced the Northern Rural Fire Authority to ban outdoor fires across the Far North District.
The authority has declared a prohibited fire season in Zone One (the Aupouri and Karikari Peninsulas) and Zone Two (the rest of the district) where there had previously been restricted fire seasons.
The ban will take effect from midday tomorrow (January 30) and mean no open-air fires will be allowed until further notice.
The authority will consider granting special permits for hangi fires. The only other exceptions to the total fire ban are gas barbecues.
The authority’s principal fire officer Myles Taylor says no significant rain has fallen on the district for weeks.
The authority has no choice but to ban outdoor fires in the current hot, dry conditions.
“Out of control fires cost the authority over $2.1 million last year and we are trying to prevent costs escalating again this year.”
Fire services have already been called out to numerous small fires this season, including a big scrub fire at Poutu near Dargaville last week.
“We have been lucky so far and have been able to contain most of these before they have escalated into major events.
“The big fire at Poutu shows how quickly small fires can spread and the damage that can be caused before control is established.”
Mr Taylor says it is disappointing that the authority has already had to invoice 10 property owners for fire fighting costs.
“We would rather they had simply held off for a few months or, at the very least, made sure they had a fire permit.
“Apart from being a very costly exercise for those responsible, it is frankly madness to be attempting to burn off at this time of the year.”
The National Rural Fire Authority is committed to recovering costs from firelighters and is pursuing a number of people through the legal system for fires more than two years ago.
Mr Taylor also urges parents to warn their children about the dangers of playing with matches or lighters in bush or scrub areas because young children may have started a fire at Kaitaia recently.
“Apart from the property damage which can be caused and fire-fighting costs, there is a very real safety issue. Young children probably don't realise they are actually putting their own lives and the lives of others at real risk.”