Fire safety urged

Doc Wakatipu rural fire officer Jamie Cowan stands beside a medium volume helibox pump, used to fill helibuckets with water for dousing rural fires, and one of 15 new warning signs to be installed around the Wakatipu's fire red zone. Photo by James Beech.
Doc Wakatipu rural fire officer Jamie Cowan stands beside a medium volume helibox pump, used to fill helibuckets with water for dousing rural fires, and one of 15 new warning signs to be installed around the Wakatipu's fire red zone. Photo by James Beech.

Rain and green vegetation does not mean the risk of rural fire is any less this summer, rural fire chiefs say.

Wakatipu residents are being asked to watch out for visitors lighting fires and advise them to stop.

There should be no fires in urban areas, only in the rural general zone, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Department of Conservation (Doc) Wakatipu district office will not issue fire permits from December 20. They will reassess the situation on January 6.

''Please do your bit for the Wakatipu Basin and remind them [visitors] all fires require a fire permit,'' Doc Wakatipu rural fire officer Jamie Cowan said.

People should telephone 111 if they see unpermitted fires over the festive period. New Year's Eve fireworks are permitted activities.

Mr Cowan said rural fires had been triggered in the past by campers trying to dispose of toilet paper, by traction engines, possums on electricity lines, trees falling on electricity lines, vehicle exhausts, hay balers, birds' nests under bonnets, fireworks, chainsaw strikes and barbecues.

Council principal rural fire officer Gordon Bailey said the district was drying out and occasional rain did not mean the fire risk was reduced as vegetation would dry out again in a matter of days.

''At this stage we haven't gone to a prohibited fire season, but we're monitoring that,'' Mr Bailey said.

Mr Bailey said the main penalty for a fire which got out of control was that the culpable party would have to pay suppression costs, which could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

''People who attend fires are all volunteers and they would like a holiday too ... so people need to be considerate as well.''