If anyone who is farming has a cavalier attitude towards fire hazards they need to quickly get up to speed with the havoc it can cause, writes Federated Farmers board member and fire spokesperson Karen Williams.

Images coming out of the Pigeon Valley fire in Nelson make for sobering viewing .

While a Fire and Emergency New Zealand investigation into what started the fire could be months' away from being made public, the cause is believed to be farm machinery being worked in a tinder dry field.

Throughout the country many areas are now suffering from heat stress. Conditions are extremely dry. These are also areas that rely on volunteer fire brigades. People who have their day jobs who then race out to help contain and extinguish blazes that harm people, pets, livestock and property.


Fire, as a farm hazard, is only going to become more common as adverse weather events become more frequent and our environment heats up. That is why it is important that when you are out on farm that you are aware of your surrounds and what you can do to minimise the fire risk.

Be aware of where your nearest water source is and strongly consider taking a large tank of water (500-1000 litre) and fueled up pump with you if you are performing farm activities that could spark a fire.

All of your farm vehicles and farm buildings should contain a suitable fire extinguisher that has been regularly serviced, and your RAPID number should be clearly evident from the road for when the fire service arrives. Having a clear access way for emergency vehicles is also advisable.

While each fire is different it is important to note the speed of which fire takes off in hot conditions, how quickly fire travels and how quickly it can spread with the help of wind.

Now is probably also the time to start learning from rural communities in Australia who have had to live with fire hazards for generations.

They have lost towns and people to bush fires and have had to rebuild their communities and shattered dreams. I'd much rather adopt what they know now rather than wait for loss of life here before we use their learnings constructively.

The planet is warming, our environment is incredibly dry, there is a particularly high fire risk for much of the country throughout several months of the year. We cannot farm with the attitude of 'she'll be right – the clouds will see to it' or that 'I won't be the cause of a fire'.

If anyone who is farming has a cavalier attitude towards fire hazards I encourage them to quickly get up to speed with the havoc it can cause.


It destroys everything in its path. We need to ensure our day to day activities are unlikely to generate a fire, and we must also have the right systems and measures in place to combat fire immediately. Let's all get on board.