A grass fire at midday today next to a busy highway on the outskirts of Tauranga has led to a stern reminder that a restricted rural fire season was in force.

''Things are drying out quickly,'' Western Bay of Plenty's deputy principal rural fire officer Alan Pearce said.

He said there had been a series of callouts this week to properties where unauthorised fires had been left unattended and then spread out of control.

A high profile fire in a paddock next to the SH2 Wairoa River bridge saw the Fire Service called to douse a small area of grass. Pearce suspected it was caused by the coals of a fire that had burned right down but not been extinguished.

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It was preceded by a callout to the lower Kaimais this morning where someone had lit a fire without a permit and it had quickly spread into rank old grass.

''Even though the grass looks green, it will be dry underneath,'' he said.

Open air fires were now banned in rural areas of the Western Bay of Plenty including rural areas of Tauranga, unless the person had a permit.

Pearce urged people to use their common sense. Even with a permit, they needed to obey requirements around safety and fire management. These included having water available, locating the fire in a vegetation-free area and well away from buildings


Western Bay's rural fire season
- October 1 to April 30
- Open air vegetation and household rubbish fires in rural areas need a permit
- Authorised fires must be supervised at all times.
- No fire permits issued for beach reserves.