A suspension on fire permits remains in the Western Bay despite the recent rain during the New Year period.

Pumicelands Rural Fire Authority attended 18 rural fires in December and has already attended several fires this month - the majority deemed preventable.

The Authority is retaining its cautious approach to the current fire risk conditions and will review the situation next week.

Rural Fire Zone Manager Alan Pearce said a close eye is being kept on conditions daily and while the rainfall over the New Year period alleviated the extreme fire risk, it was not enough to lower the risk to manageable levels.

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Suspension of fire permits was imposed across the Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga City sub-region before Christmas after the fire risk reached extreme levels.

"The fire danger raced to the very high range for scrubland and shelterbelts and remains at that level today," he said.

Eighteen rural fires were attended in December, including unpermitted fires, out of control vegetation and shelterbelt fires, and four structural fires.

The latter resulted in the loss of buildings, farm machinery, hay, and more, he said.

"Most of these fires occurred as the consequence of lighting up in unsuitable conditions or careless use of fireworks and machinery. These fires were, in the main, preventable."

Early in the new Year a reveller caused a large scrub fire in Pukehina by carelessly discharging fireworks.

"The fire threatened a number of houses before it was controlled by the local brigade and rural fire resources.

"Two more fires reported to the authority this month resulted from electrical faults, including one incident where downed power lines caused a scrub fire on New Year's Day."

Alan says the high fire danger is expected to continue until Saturday when more rain is predicted.

"We are reviewing the weather daily and hopefully the predicted rainfall will be sufficient to recommence the issue of fire permits next week."

For information on fire permits please contact Western Bay of Plenty District Council on 07 571 8008.