Residents call for fire safety measures

Livingstone residents say they cannot rely on the "goodwill of their neighbours" to save them from a fire again.

More than 50 people gathered at the Tokarahi Hall last night for a public meeting with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz), Waitaki District Council members and other agencies to discuss the fire that burnt through 611ha earlier this month.

Waitaki deputy principal fire officer Mike Harrison said it was "some of the most intense fire behaviour" he had seen in 20 years.

One resident said he woke to a neighbour banging on his door at 3am to notify him of the fire.

"God knows what would have happened if he hadn’t seen it."

He questioned why there was not a fire siren in the area to avoid future problems.

"It would be much more effective."

Fenz wildfire adviser Graeme Still said a siren was not the "be all and end all" but it was an option to look into.

In similar rural townships, there was a mobile phone alert system to notify residents of a fire, and it could work in Livingstone.

However, meeting attendees argued there was limited reception in the area and it would not work for them.

There were "lots of learnings" to come out of the fire, and there was work going on in the background to find a solution, he said.

Other residents said they were disappointed with the lack of communication regarding the fire, and not being notified their power was turned off.

Some raised concerns with the trees being near powerlines, which is what is believed to have started the fire.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the fire came far closer to houses than "any of us would have liked".

It was a "terrible coincidence" the fire occurred at the same time as the Lake Ohau fire, which burnt through more than 5000ha and destroyed 48 buildings.


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