Fire crews brace for rise in callouts

Fire and Emergency NZ Senior Station Officer Mark Leonard at Dunedin City Fire Station, where...
Fire and Emergency NZ Senior Station Officer Mark Leonard at Dunedin City Fire Station, where crews are bracing for an increase in emergencies during Level 3. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dunedin firefighters are bracing for an increase in emergency calls as more people hit the road.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Senior Station Officer Mark Leonard, of Dunedin, said despite a decrease in callouts for car crashes and false alarms throughout lockdown, he expected fire crews would "start to see all of that change".

He urged people to not flout Level 3 restrictions, noting they were similar to Level 4.

Although there were fewer overall calls during lockdown, firefighters had been busy with an increased number of rubbish fires.

Mr Leonard said people were burning rubbish they had not been able to take to the tip, which had taken crews away from emergencies.

"Do not have rubbish fires and do not set fire to stuff at your properties.

"We are still trying to keep our distance from people."

Rubbish fires across the country had more than doubled in comparison with the same time last year.

Community Readiness and Recovery national manager Steve Turek said between March 23 and April 22 there had been nearly 750 preventable rubbish fires, more than double the number for the same period last year.

He said even where a fire had a permit and was under control, the smoke would often generate a 111 call from "well-meaning" members of the public.

"Every time this happens, our firefighters need to leave their isolation bubble and risk potential exposure to Covid-19."

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