Fire brigades busy in dry weather

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Volunteer fire Brigades in Eastern Southland had a busy weekend with vegetation fires caused by the “extreme weather conditions” Gore Chief Fire Officer Steve Lee said.

The Gore and surrounds volunteer brigades, including Wyndham, Riversdale, Mataura, Waikawa, Waikaka and Tapanui, attended five vegetation fires from Friday to Monday.

Mr Lee said vegetation fires started in many ways.

“They can start when people burn off paddocks, using fire as a land management tool and it can get out of control.”

“There have been also barns burned down in the past few months and that’s caused by storing damp hay.

“Then it can spread to trees.”

Mr Lee said the brigade had also seen fires caused by sparks from exhausts like mowers, extreme heat and sun magnifying through bottles lying in holes or pits and roadside fires from people discarding cigarette butts from cars.

Mr Lee said in his experience it was one of the busiest periods the brigades had faced with vegetation fires.

“A massive amount of our work has been around vegetation or hay barn fires that have spread into vegetation.”

Mr Lee urged people to take care.

“People need to understand with the weather conditions being so dry and with low moisture levels in the vegetation, fire will spread rapidly. Please do not hesitate to call 111 straight away.”

“On Sunday, a fire was reported and we knew it as 2 metres square at first. By the time the person had rung in, it had jumped across the road and 20 metres of trees were starting to be engulfed.”

Mr Lee said the brigades in Eastern Southland were lucky to have the numbers they did over the weekend.

“If we didn’t have these numbers we would have been lucky to get the fires contained so quickly.”

Mr Lee thanked the Tapanui, Waikaka, Riversdale, Pukerau, Mataura and Wyndham brigades for responding and dealing with the recent bout of vegetation fires.

“The harmonious relationships and teamwork between the brigades helps reduce the damage significantly.”

The nature of the firefighters’ work over the past week had been physically demanding due to the extreme weather conditions, he said.