Keeping Our Volunteer Firefighters Safe

Fire and Emergency NZ are urging Canterbury’s residents to avoid burning outdoors and reduce the need for callouts as the country continues to grapple with Covid-19.

Fire and Emergency NZ FirefighterNorth Canterbury Principal Rural Fire Officer, Bruce Janes, says that with more people at home, any fire is likely to result in a smoke report.

“This results in fire crews, mostly volunteers, having to leave their family bubble to investigate.  Not only are the crews put at risk, but it has the potential to jeopardise the health and safety of the wider community.”

Over recent weeks, crews have responded to a number of hedge and rubbish fires caused by unpermitted burns.

Bruce says this puts an unnecessary strain on emergency services, “The volunteers don’t have a bottomless supply of protective equipment, especially given the other essential service demands on things such as masks, sanitiser and gloves.”

While the arrival of sustained rain is good news for the region, Bruce explains that it will take time to replenish the deep-seated drought conditions. Fire restrictions are still in place for Canterbury, including Waimakariri, meaning a permit from Fire and Emergency is required before lighting.

Fire permit holders are encouraged to call prior to lighting any permitted burns so that Fire and Emergency can limit the amount of “smoke chasing” that local brigades are doing. Bruce Janes says permits are only likely to be granted to priority burns such as crop stubble and land management burns and urges everyone, including permit holders, to consider alternatives to burning or delaying fires.

“We appreciate people are at home, and asking “what better time to get that burn done….”, but they should hold off until after the lockdown so we don’t have a whole lot of unnecessary exposure to our fire-fighters.”

Rubbish fires in particular are being discouraged with Waimakariri District Council providing other options for disposal.

He says the current wet conditions are an excellent chance for people to check any fires that they’ve had over recent months and ensure that they are fully extinguished.

Visit Checkitsalright to get information on local fire requirements.