A fire on the outskirts of Te Urewera on Sunday has prompted an urgent warning from both urban and rural fire services that Rotorua is in a restricted season and care must be taken.

Although the recent rain has made a temporary difference to the fire danger, the forecast of high temperatures could see it climb to a high level in days.

The restricted season means a permit must be obtained before any fires are lit in open air. If the danger becomes extreme, a total fire ban could be imposed.

Pumicelands operations co-ordinator and deputy principal rural fire officer Steve Webb said rain often meant people relaxed in regard to the fire danger.


"While rain may defer the danger slightly, it still remains and right now it is dangerous," Webb said.

"People need to make sure they have a permit and also check with Fire and Emergency NZ or the Department of Conservation for specific conditions concerning barbecues, incinerators, ethnic cooking fires and campfires."

Specialist fire investigator Lynda McHugh urged people to obtain a permit before lighting a fire.

"We have had a lot of callouts already this year," McHugh said. "And to a number of differing fires."

She said it wasn't only rural areas where fire spread quickly. "When it's dry, as things are in Rotorua, urban vegetation fires take hold very fast too, as do property fires.

"People need to be aware of what they are doing when lighting fires and also aware of their surroundings."

13 Jan, 2019 11:25am
Quick Read
3 Jan, 2019 6:22am
Quick Read

Sunday's Paekoa Rd, Tawera, forestry fire resulted in the loss of significant forestry assets that were damaged or destroyed in the blaze. As well as the cut-over, replanted area, flames also damaged standing pines.

Whakatāne Voluntary Rural Fire Force team leader Alan Keeber said crews arrived at the fire at 11.30am and left at 8pm.

"It was an intense fire with medium and heavy fuels contributing to the burn," Keeber said. "I'm not sure of the exact area it covered but is was substantial."

Firefighters battled the Ruatoki forest fire for several hours. Photo / Supplied
Firefighters battled the Ruatoki forest fire for several hours. Photo / Supplied

Rural Fire Force crews were joined by the Taneatua Brigade, two helicopters, a digger and the Edgecumbe water tanker.

He said an ambulance was called for one of his crew members who suffered dehydration and fatigue.

"He was checked out and given the all-clear, it was more of a precautionary measure than anything."

The day before Rural Fire Force had attended another rural fire in Te Urewera which was also significant.

Although the cause of both fires had not been identified, Keeber urged people to take care.