A Northland rural fire boss is making an impassioned plea for people lighting unnecessary fires to think about volunteer firefighters not spending time with their families this festive season.
Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said despite there being a restricted fire season in force at present, people were still lighting fires without a permit and causing inconvenience to those dealing with them.
A restricted fire season came into force in Northland from 6am on December 1, which means people need a permit to light fires. There are exceptions such as hangi, umu and barbecue fires.
A person convicted of lighting a fire in open air without a permit during restricted fire season can be sentenced to up to two years in prison or face a maximum fine of $300,000, or both.
"My message this time is for people to think about our poor volunteer firefighters who are with their families celebrating at this time of the year and who are being called to deal with fires people shouldn't light in the first place," Taylor said.
"It's not fair on our volunteers who deserve to spend quality time with their families. It's all very well for people to say sorry when we turn up to put fires out."
As well as the inconvenience, he said out of control fires were quite costly to put out.
Taylor said the cost of putting out a large scrub fire that burnt for four days south of Kaikohe before it was temporarily brought under control around midday on Sunday would be in the vicinity of $200,000.
The fire flares up two to three times a day and a helicopter and a bulldozer were on site at Pipiwai Rd in Matawaia yesterday.
Four helicopters, two bulldozers and 25 rural firefighters battled the fire that burnt between 60ha and 100ha of bush.
"Investigations are still ongoing but from the point of origin, it doesn't look like it was a natural event. The worst time of the day is between 2pm and 4pm when it's the hottest and fire activities pick up."
On Saturday evening, volunteer firefighters from Whangārei Heads were called to a property in Parua Bay after a man lit a fire without a permit to burn cleared ti tree.
No action was taken against the man.
Volunteer firefighters, including himself, have cancelled family birthday parties and bach bookings over the years to attend out of control fires and that has had a dramatic effect on them, he said.
The New Zealand Fire and Emergency spent more than $200,000 in the first two weeks of November last year fighting out of control burns in the Far North district.
Most, if not all, of those fires were as a result of people leaving fires burning, thinking it was safe to leave them unattended.
Visit www.checkitsalright.nz to obtain a permit, for advice on the current fire status and tips on safe fires.