Chief's Guy Fawkes warning

By Peter de Graaf

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Anyone who starts a blaze with fireworks tonight will have to pay to put it out.
Anyone who starts a blaze with fireworks tonight will have to pay to put it out.

Anyone whose fireworks start a blaze tonight will have to pay to put it out, Far North fire bosses say.

The warning comes amid an unusually dry spring and after Kaitaia firefighters were called to two fireworks-related blazes over the weekend.

A fire ban already in force in the Far North - thought to be the earliest on record - could also put a dampener on any bonfire parties planned tonight. A fire ban does not yet apply in Whangarei or Kaipara.

Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said anyone in the rural Far North would need a permit to light a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night and should take extreme caution with fireworks.

Recent rain had done little to bring down the fire risk.

"Given these conditions, we'd prefer it if people in rural areas didn't light fireworks this year. However, if people must light fireworks, they do so on the understanding that they will be asked to pay firefighting costs if they start a scrub fire."

Usually fire restrictions did not start until well into November.

The Kaitaia fire chief, Colin Kitchen, said the brigade put out a grass fire over about 100sq m on Gill Rd, Awanui, just after 1pm on Saturday.

It was thought to be the district's first Guy Fawkes-related blaze this year. About 12.45pm on Sunday children were seen running away when a tree hut on Kaitaia's Jamieson Rd went up in flames, also a result of fireworks.

Mr Taylor said the rural fire authority had put out up to 30 fires so far this season, including a large scrub fire at Mitimiti, and was determined to do everything within its powers to prevent more fires.

The authority issued an unprecedented number of invoices for firefighting costs last summer and intended to recover costs without exception this year - even if it was a permitted fire which had burnt out of control.

Brochures would be delivered to every rural household in the district so no one would be able to claim they didn't know about the fire restrictions.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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