No costs for fires

The Otago Rural Fire Authority has decided not to seek costs from three farmers who lit fires during a fire ban, but warns a total fire ban remains throughout Central Otago and a severe fire risk exists.

The three farmers - in the Tarras, Naseby and Lindis areas, lit fires on their properties in February. All were rubbish fires and none got out of control, but fire crews still had to attend each incident and extinguish the fires, as required during a total fire ban.

Otago Rural Fire Authority deputy principal rural fire officer Peter Scarlet said at the time the fire authority might seek costs from the farmers for fighting the fires. The cost of each fire could be up to $5000, he said.

Mr Scarlet said this week the fire authority had decided not to seek costs from the farmers, and declined to say how much the fires had cost.

''We have decided against following the cost recovery process for these fires as the cost of suppression of each is relatively low and we believe that since the recent publicity around the total fire ban we have had fewer issues with landowners lighting fires.''

However, it was important to note the fire authority could still seek costs for fighting other fires.

He also said it was important to remember all firefighters in Central Otago were volunteers. The volunteer effort was far higher than the financial costs of the three February fires, he said.

Mr Scarlet said the total fire ban was likely to remain in place in the district at least until April.

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