No butts about it, fire threat

By Alison King of the Rotorua Daily Post -
Kerosene Creek is closed because of the current fire risk. Photo / Ben Fraser
Kerosene Creek is closed because of the current fire risk. Photo / Ben Fraser

Forest managers nervous about dry conditions are warning people if they trespass in closed parts of Bay of Plenty forests they will be prosecuted.

Timberlands forest risk manager Colin Maunder said Kaingaroa Forest remained closed to all, including hunters and anglers, and it would take action if the forest was put at risk. The forest has been closed since November.

"If we find people putting the forest at risk we won't treat it lightly, especially in these conditions," he said.

"The potential loss of property and even life we have to take very seriously. People could get seriously hurt. While we might be more lenient at other times of the year I don't think you would want to risk it at the moment."

Also closed to the public is popular tourist and local swimming hole Kerosene Creek.

"We find cigarette butts and remains of small fires that people have started down there, something as small as a cigarette butt can lead to a forest fire.

That's why we're pretty nervous, we have to reluctantly close these areas off.

"We've locked as much of the forests as we possibly can without stopping the day-to-day work, which is mainly the cartage of logs."

He said it was believed a butt was the cause of the forest fire at Waiotapu at the start of the month which almost razed a house.

Timberlands pays for two fire engines with a three-man crew, plus an extra eight firefighters to be stationed at their Waiotapu fire store. There is also a helicopter on standby along with a member of Timberlands staff. They have more fire stores on the Napier-Taupo highway, at Murupara and Rotoehu forest. These each have a fire engine manned by three firefighters plus another fire crew and a staff member.

Mr Maunder said the recent fire at Waiotapu was tackled by the nearby crews and believed it was their fast actions that helped saved the home.

There is also a strict mandate in place preventing any work with machinery in forest after 3pm. A person must remain on site for at least an hour after.

"We've had three or four fires already where if we didn't have someone there we might have been in trouble."

The Whakarewarewa Forest remains open for recreational activities.

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