High fire risk
by Mike Isle
Fire and Emergency New Zealand has warned that Selwyn District is currently at a high fire risk rating and is likely to remain so until at least the weekend.
It is a slight improvement on the extreme fire risk announced by the fire service and the Selwyn District Council last week, but rural fire officers say this offers no room for complacency and extreme care is needed when lighting open fires in and around Selwyn.
They suggest keeping an eye on the current fire status before even thinking of lighting a fire. There are several websites that help — Fire and Emergency New Zealand has at least two: checkitsalright.nz has the current status and whether there is a need for a fire permit; and their Fire Weather site, which they share with NIWA, provides short and long-term projections.
The Selwyn District Council website is also a good source for information.
Other recommendations the council and the fire service recommend are trying to avoid mowing lawns, grass verges and paddocks until the weather cools and taking special care to watch and contain barbecues. The district’s principal rural fire officer Bruce Janes said one little-known, but common fire risk comes from a surprising quarter — bird nests in machinery such as tractors, quad bikes, even aircraft.
“Birds are a real shocker for nesting in and around engines. And 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.
Mr Janes said the fireandemergency.nz website has a section focussed on farming.
The recommendation from all parties is to look out for smoke and if in doubt call 111 immediately.