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21/12/2017 9:20am

Fire and Emergency urges people to take action now ahead of a hot, dry summer


Firefighters do not join most Kiwis in welcoming the hot dry weather across the country, and are urging the public to take action now to keep their properties safe from fire.

This year is shaping up to be much drier than previous years and with the La Nina conditions forecast, it is only going to get hotter and drier. This means a greater risk to life and property. With many areas going into Restricted fire seasons, people need to take action now,” said John Rasmussen, National Manager Rural Operations, Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

Clear vegetation to keep your property safe

Plentiful winter and spring rainfall has increased grass and vegetation growth. With the tap now seemingly turned off, these fuels are drying out and will ignite easily. With conditions hot and dry earlier than normal we need people to take action now to keep their properties fire-safe. It’s really important to clear vegetation around your home so you have a safe, defendable space that will help protect your home in the event of a vegetation fire. Where conditions are dry, mow your lawns first thing in the morning when it is coolest, to prevent the risk of sparks igniting and starting a fire,” said Mr Rasmussen.

New Zealand is a country used to natural disasters, and with the increase of extreme weather associated with climate change, vegetation fires now need to be given a higher priority on that list of disasters we need to prepare for.

Climate change brings a range of impacts for fire weather and behaviour. “For firefighters, climate change means essentially more extremes with more floods and more droughts, or, more simply, the wet will be wet and the dry, drier. Just think back to earlier this year: firefighters were responding to intense and damaging fires in Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury in February, and then tropical storms and flooding in March,” said Mr Rasmussen.

What many people don’t realise is warm, wet winters also add to the fire risk. The rain means increased vegetation growth, which when it dries out higher fuel loading. More fuel means greater risk of fires, higher fire intensity and more difficulty in controlling fires when they do break out.

Vegetation fire danger and risk is one we all need to take action on as individuals, communities and as a nation. Rural and urban-rural property owners can take some simple steps now that will help keep their properties safe, and allow us all to have a good Christmas,” said Mr Rasmussen.

Key fire safety tips include:
  • Make sure your property has good access for firetrucks, and to water supplies.
  • Have a well-practiced escape plan so everyone knows what to do if there is a fire. 
  • Call 111 immediately if you see any smoke. 
  • Maintain a defendable area free of vegetation around your home 
  • Store firewood in a cool dry place, not next to your home. It will dry out with the sun and heat and ignite easily. 
  • Be vigilant when carrying out activities with machinery that causes sparks and ignite a fire. Dampen down the surrounding area beforehand, and undertake the activity first thing in the morning when it is coolest. Remember to check the fire season at checkitsalright.nz as these activities may be fully prohibited due to the high risk of them starting a fire. 

Use our fire safety checklist to help make sure your property is safe from vegetation fires this summer https://fireandemergency.nz/assets/Documents/Files/Is-your-property-safe-from-fire.PDF 

Go to checkitsalright.nz to check the fire danger in your area.