Fire bosses are stepping up patrols in the Far North as wildfires start breaking out again just weeks after one of the wettest winters on record.

Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said many people believed the fire danger was still low due to the wet winter.

"But it's drying out rapidly and we're starting to get break-outs again," he said.

On Monday night Rawene firefighters spent almost two hours battling a scrub fire at Waima which was heading towards a house. The cause was still being investigated but it was likely to have been started by a rubbish fire or burn-off.

Advertisement

As in previous years people were being caught out by not paying attention to the wind before lighting fires, Mr Taylor said. The spring equinox winds would last for at least another month.

"It doesn't matter how wet it's been, if there's a good strong wind the fire will take off."

This summer the Rural Fire Authority was planning to boost its visibility by patrolling past problem areas in marked vehicles. They would also conduct patrols after hours to catch people breaching fire restrictions after dark in the mistaken belief they would not get caught.

Last summer fire restrictions were imposed in the Far North in late October, the earliest start date on record.

"We'll look at going early again with restrictions if people don't follow the rules and common sense," Mr Taylor said.

The authority will again be billing anyone whose fire gets out of control. Putting out a wildfire can cost tens of thousands of dollars once helicopters are brought in.

If in doubt go to http://havingafire.org.nz/ or call 0800 920 029 (Far North) or (09) 430 7707 (Whangarei/Kaipara).