Volunteer Hawke's Bay firefighters are being put at risk by members of the public not paying heed to a total fire ban in a region under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

And Principal Rural Fire officer Trevor Mitchell is not impressed.

"This is an unprecedented situation for New Zealand, for us.

"Our volunteers are doing well, they are a resilient bunch. But they would rather not be attending unnecessary fires that are putting them at risk," Mitchell said.


"We currently have problems with people lighting fires in a total fire ban, which we are looking to lift in a few days. We have issues like people lighting rubbish fires.

"Over the weekend we had a woolshed fire in Porangahau, and we had 20 volunteer firefighters attend. No one was injured, the shed was burnt to the ground and we don't know the cause."

The rural fire brigade in Hawke's Bay was down 50 volunteer firefighters, Mitchell said.

"The volunteers have stood themselves down, some are over 70, some are in isolation, some have an 'at risk' person in their household, or they have injuries which would not help with work," he said.

"And while we are still okay, and can manage, it is hard for us when we need to attend unnecessary fires."

He said volunteer firefighters were following all necessary rules and procedures, including decontamination, when attending a callout.

"We have our processes in place to keep them safe, and we have to ensure they are not breaking any contamination rules," Mitchell said.

"If the crew are called to a job they are asking people questions like 'is there anyone in your household in self-isolation' and has anyone been tested."


He said, if and when, the total fire ban was lifted people would still not be able to light fires without any caution. Until then he still urged people to be not light fires.

"People will need a permit, and we will be requiring additional information from people wanting to light a fire.

"We have a situation where people are calling up their local fire stations to alert us. They need to still call 111 in an emergency."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website