A total fire ban has been put in place across the entire Rotorua District with immediate effect. This is the first time in over 11 years that this has happened.
The fire ban is a joint move by Rotorua District Council, Pumicelands and Department of Conservation (DOC) rural fire authorities, with support from New Zealand Fire Service. It applies to all urban and rural areas of the district and DOC land.
Existing fire permits have been cancelled and no new permits or extensions are being issued during the period of the ban.
The only exceptions that would be considered are for genuine health reasons such as disposal of dead stock, or cultural reasons such as tangi, but residents would need to apply first to Rotorua District Council.
Acting Principal Rural Fire Officer for Rotorua District, Richard Horn, said all agencies had agreed that the ban was necessary at present because the very dry conditions meant there was an extreme fire risk.
“No fires are to be lit outdoors in the city, suburbs or country areas and this includes open fires, braziers, hangi and umu.
“Gas barbeques may still be used however extra caution is required. People need to be particularly careful with cigarette butts and farmers need to ensure electric fences are well maintained as a single spark could easily result in a fire.
“Anyone found contravening the fire ban will not only have the fire put out with the costs for fire suppression charged to them personally, but they would also risk prosecution,” said Mr Horn.
Bob Boardman, Department of Conservation’s regional Fire Officer, said DOC had now declared a Total Fire Prohibition across the Bay of Plenty and East Coast. The total ban on fires in the outdoors extends to all DOC lands and includes fire safety margins in the area covered by the Rotorua District Council.
“The great summer weather has pushed the fire risk into the extreme, meaning people need to be aware that one careless act could spark a devastating blaze”, he warned.
“As a result, only gas cookers and gas barbeques may be used in the outdoors on DOC lands, and then only with extreme care. All permits for outdoors burning are also cancelled.” said Mr Boardman.
Rotorua mayor Kevin Winters said the total fire ban was entirely appropriate given the current dry conditions across Rotorua and the on-going lack of rain.
“Rotorua is tinder dry at present and the slightest spark could result in a major fire putting people and property at serious risk.
“I urge all Rotorua people and visitors to our district to comply with the ban and to take every possible precaution to ensure nothing they or their children do could cause a fire of any sort. The potential for loss of property or worse, loss of life, from a careless moment is just too horrific to contemplate.
“Please take special care with barbeques and cigarettes, and ensure matches and lighters are kept well away from your kids,” he said.
Mr Horn said anyone who sees a fire or notices smoke should immediately call the Fire Service on 111.