Fire threatens us all – whether we live in towns or in the country. Rural fires are particularly devastating, destroying our natural environment, farmland, forests, property and livelihoods. It is in all our interests to prevent rural fires. Loss of property from fire is a devastating experience and in many cases a commonsense approach can avoid these disasters.
Protect Your Home | Fire Season Statuses | Fire Permits | Key Issues | Complaints
Central Otago Fire Season Status - Restricted
Restricted Fire Season over the Central Otago District is now in force in the urban and rural areas.
A permit to burn in the open air must be obtained before a fire is ignited.
Rural fire in the Central Otago District
The Central Otago District Council is a Rural Fire Authority. The Council is responsible for ensuring the requirements of the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977, the Forest and Rural Fires Regulations 1979, and Part 3 of Central Otago District Council General Bylaws 2008 (urban areas) for fires in the open air are met within the Central Otago district.
The Council has four voluntary rural fire forces with fire fighting equipment. They are:
- Tarras – stationed at Tarras
- Dunstan and districts – stationed at Alexandra
- Blackstone – stationed at Omakau
- Ettrick – stationed at Millers Flat
Note: In the case of fire, do not try and contact the rural fire forces direct. Dial 111 and ask for the Fire Service.
Volunteers are encouraged to join any of these rural fire forces. Volunteers are required to undergo training.
For further information contact the Principal Rural Fire Officer at the Central Otago District Council Office, Alexandra (03 440 0612).
What landowners can do to help protect their homes from wild fire
Evaluate the building site – level ground is better than sloping ground as fire travels faster up slopes.
Allow enough room for heavy vehicles (fire appliances, water tankers, etc) to travel up driveways and turn around. A minimum driveway width of four metres and height clearance of five metres is recommended for vehicle clearance.
Water sources (ponds, water races, streams, dams, tanks etc) should have easy vehicle access and be located close to buildings, and have standardised couplings on the water supply tanks.
Create a safety zone around the house and buildings; keep grass as short as possible and, if possible, use an irrigation system to keep the grass green; keep gutters cleaned out, overhanging trees trimmed, and stack firewood well away from the house. Keep trees and hedges trimmed so that they do not come in contact with power lines.
Always exercise extreme care with rotary slashers and hay mowers. When blades hit rocks, sparks can start fires very easily when conditions are dry. The best time to mow is when the grass is damp or green. Carry fire extinguishers or knapsack sprayers filled with water during mowing operations and make regular visual checks to make sure a spark has not created a fire.
If a fire cannot be managed by these means, dial 111 and ask for the Fire Service.
Fire season statuses
The fire seasons in the Central Otago District Council Rural Fire Authority area of jurisdiction can vary throughout the year depending on weather and fuel (vegetation) conditions. However, under normal conditions a restricted fire season applies from 1 October until 30 April.
The Central Otago District Council Rural Fire Authority operates three types of fire seasons. These fire seasons apply to urban and rural areas:
Open fire season - No permit is required for lighting fires in the open air. However, you are still responsible for any fire that you light.
Restricted fire season - A fire permit is required before the lighting of fires in the open air. Please allow five days for the permit to be processed. Fire permits are required for the following activities:
- camp fires
- controlled burns
- hangis and umus (and any other type of ethnic cooking fire)
- rubbish fires
- solid fuel BBQs
If you are unsure whether a fire permit is required, contact the Principal Rural Fire Officer at the Council office (03 440 0612).
Prohibited fire season -This is a total ban on any type of fire in the open. ‘Open air’ means not in a fireplace, incinerator, barbecue or any other place that is not approved. A prohibited fire season is enforced during times of high risk to protect life and property. No applications for fire permits will be accepted and all current fire permits will be cancelled. All fires except gas barbecues are prohibited.
Applying for a fire permit
Application forms for fire permits can be obtained from any Council office:
Alexandra 03 440 0056
Cromwell 03 445 0211
Ranfurly 03 444 9170
Roxburgh 03 446 8105
In some cases the proposed fire site may need to be inspected before a fire permit is issued, so please allow at least five working days prior to the proposed burning time.
A fire permit may be declined for safety reasons or where a fire may unreasonably affect other people.
Even if you have been advised that a fire permit will be issued (by post, fax or manually delivered) do not carry out burning until you have received the permit, as the permit will have a set of conditions that you are required to observe. You must be able to produce the permit on request to a fire or police officer.
Due to the changeable weather conditions in Central Otago, the fire permit is issued for a maximum fourteen days and can be renewed for further fourteen day periods.
Key issues to remember
- The New Zealand Fire Service does not issue fire permits.
- Fire permits are issued by rural fire authorities only and you may be required to get a permit from another rural fire authority for your fire as well (e.g. the Department of Conservation).
- The responsibility for conducting a safe burn belongs to the holder of the fire permit. If the fire gets out of control, you may be liable for costs and damage.
- There is no charge for a fire permit.
Failure to obtain a fire permit is an offence under the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 and Part 4 of the Central Otago District Council Bylaws 2001 for Fires in the Open Air. This applies to rural and urban areas.
The Department of Conservation has a one kilometre fire safety margin bordering its properties and if any burning is required within this one kilometre zone a fire permit must be obtained from the local Department of Conservation office (Central Otago area office 03 440 2040), not the District Council.
Naseby Forest also has a fire safety margin around the forest and is part of Southern Rural Fire District. For further information contact Ernslaw One Ltd, Naseby Office (03 444 9995).
The permit holder is strongly advised to obtain adequate fire suppression insurance as well as public liability insurance, before commencing any burning operations. Escaped fires have cost persons responsible for lighting them up to $250,000 in fire-fighting costs.
Complaints regarding outside burning
Excessively smoky fires and chimneys
The Otago Regional Council is responsible for air quality throughout the Otago region, both urban and rural. If you are concerned about fires causing excessive smoke or pollution your complaint should be made directly to the Otago Regional Council. The Otago Regional Council website is at www.orc.govt.nz or telephone the Pollution Hotline, 0800 800033.
Dangerous, suspicious or out of control fires
Telephone 111 and ask for the Fire Service – then give vital information regarding the fire’s location (being as accurate as possible), size of the fire, what is burning, weather conditions and any other relevant information – for example, who is there, etc.
For further rural fire and weather information, check the National Rural Fire Authority’s website at http://nrfa.fire.org.nz