Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'Tonnes' of fires after ban ignored

Aucklanders still aren't heeding a complete fire ban in the region with the Fire Service being called to "tonnes" of jobs so far this weekend.

Auckland Council issued a complete fire ban for the region after forecasts for a hot, dry and windy anniversary long weekend.

All open air fires, including rubbish fires, bonfires, backyard braziers, fireworks and cooking fires are banned.

Nonetheless, northern fire communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said there had been "tonnes" of fires in the region in 24 hours.

There were 17 as a result of backyard rubbish burns; one from a cooking fire; one from a brazier fire; two from bonfires lit on the foreshore; and five started by fireworks.

There was a fire in Wiri in south Auckland where a hangi set a fence on fire. In another instance, a brazier was knocked over and ignited vegetation.

"It's apparent that lots of people aren't aware of the fire ban so they are continuing having backyard fires, setting off fireworks, having hangis and umus and using braziers," Mr Phillips said.

Gas barbecues could be used, but not those that used solid fuel such as charcoal or those with an open flame.

It was likely many of those breaching the ban were not aware of it being in place, said Auckland Council spokeswoman Sharne Parsons.

"While we do acknowledge in some cases people genuinely were not aware, careless behaviour can turn very serious very fast and won't be tolerated," she said.

The Fire Service had also received several calls from concerned residents, reporting on neighbours breaching the ban.

There were 122 minor fires nationally in the past 24 hours, including 54 vegetation fires.

Meanwhile, principal rural fire officer Bryan Cartelle said a fire on Great Barrier Island that has destroyed more than 100 hectares of bush was now "very well contained" but there remained a risk of it starting up again and volunteer firefighters were continuing to dampen down hotspots.

Thermal imaging equipment was being used to identify any remaining hotspots.

"It's still hot, it's still dry but any flare-ups are well in the containment zone so it's not too bad. We're in a strong position at the moment but you can't start backing off," Mr Cartelle said.

A total of 42 firefighting personnel including Department of Conservation staff, local firefighters and crews from Auckland, Rotorua and Nelson remained on the island.

"I'd say we'll have people there for the next week or so at least," Mr Cartelle said.

- APNZ

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