Keeping farm machinery maintenance up to date is crucial for reducing fire risk.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) was out in force to promote the rural fire safety message at the recent South Island Agricultural Field Days.

''Checking on that machinery maintenance is crucial and 'check it's all right before you light' are the key messages we want to get out to farmers,'' Fenz fire risk management officer Kerri Pring said.

A burnt-out tractor was on display to show farmers what could go wrong, she said.

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''Check for bird's nests. They can build them very quickly. You can go to lunch and come back and you've got a fire risk in your machine.''

She said this latest season had been an unusual summer for firefighters.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand rural support officer Lou Ander got to drive the
Fire and Emergency New Zealand rural support officer Lou Ander got to drive the "fire tractor'' round at South Island Agricultural Field Days last month. Photo / David Hill

''There's the greenness of the grass, which stuck around for a little longer than you would expect, and then it dried out very quickly.

''I suppose in terms of big fires, we were down on numbers, but there were lots of calls for permitted fires, so it shows that seeing plumes of smoke can make people nervous.''

Canterbury's rural firefighters were kept busy again this summer, responding to car accidents, medical events, fires and trapped horses, and several local fire crews assisted with fighting fires around Nelson, Pring said.