Birds pose fire risk

by Mike Isle

It should come as no surprise to farmers that after the recent rain the rural fire risk is low. Nevertheless, risk there is, and as the district’s principal rural fire officer Bruce Janes explains it comes from a surprising quarter.

Bruce Janes is relatively relaxed at the moment. At this time of the year, he can expect about six fire-related call-outs a month. Later, it will get much heavier and far more serious as the heat and the winds set in.

The problem is, the rain Selwyn is experiencing now may make this summer worse than ever.

Bruce Janes says rain produces growth. Growth dries out and becomes flammable.

“Combine that with the El Nino we are predicted to get this summer, and we could see some real drama later in the season,” he says.

In his experience, Bruce says, farmers are fairly good at mitigating the fire risk on their property, and there are plenty of resources on the Fire and Emergency website to help them.

Moreover, he has one startling revelation of a fire risk that farmers overlook or perhaps don’t even know about — birds. Bird nests in machinery such as tractors, quad bikes, even aircraft, pose a real threat he says.

“Birds are a real shocker for nesting in and around engines. Also, maybe when the machinery hasn’t been used for a while, and the engine is started you have an instant fire.”

Bruce Janes recommends farmers check and clear their machinery of nests regularly.

The same goes for nests in and around farm buildings. “As harsh as it sounds, it is probably best to get rid of nests before they are finished.”

Another risk for farmers is allowing grass to build up around buildings. Bruce Janes recommends cutting and cutting often.

“In general terms, now is the time to have a clean-up around the property to prevent problems later. Just stay aware that there is always a fire risk and there is quite a lot that we do on farms that can start a fire. Just staying aware of that, planning ahead, will be a great help.”

Fire and Emergency NZ recommends farmers keep track of three websites. Their site has a section focussed on farming, has current weather forecasts and has the current rural risk status.