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Rural fires can threaten native and exotic forest, scrub, peat and tussock areas, as well as the animals and plants living in them. They are also a danger to people living near forested areas.
Our forested areas include exotic forests grown for commercial production, and native forests. These areas include over 4,000 native forest fragments (stands smaller than 25 hectares), many of which are on farmland or lifestyle properties.
The risk of rural fires can be increased by long periods of hot, dry weather, careless use of camp fires, and unsafe disposal of cigarette ends and matches.
Rural fires can also be caused by nature (such as lightning strikes), and by activities such as:
- arson (deliberately lit fires)
- sparks off train wheels, farming machinery or power line arcs
- vehicle accidents (engine fires spreading to vegetation)
- rubbish fires
- sun rays focusing through discarded broken glass.
What you can do
There are many ways you can help to prevent rural fires. Carefully dispose of:
- cigarette butts
- other flammable objects (aerosol cans)
If you have to burn rubbish, do so in an area away from trees, bush and tall grass:
- Make sure you have a rural fire permit, and that no fire bans are in place.
- Make sure a water supply is nearby.
- Don’t leave the fire unattended.
- Don’t light rubbish fires on windy days.
- Thoroughly soak the fire with water after it’s died down to make sure it’s completely out.
If you live in a rural area, make a fire-safe zone by cutting back tree branches, plants and tall grasses around your property’s home, outbuildings and any fuel tanks. This will stop domestic fires spreading to surrounding vegetation and prevent rural fires spreading to buildings.
Farmers can help prevent rural fires by:
- keeping mufflers and spark arresters on agricultural equipment maintained
- watching out for rocks and metal when mowing
- monitoring hay-baling operations closely
- watching out for sparks when using welding equipment to build fences or repair equipment.
If your smoke detector goes off, you smell smoke or you see a fire in the building, take the following steps:
- remain calm and get out
- drop to the floor to avoid smoke and fumes. Crawl to safety
- if you see smoke under the door, find another way out
- feel the door with the back of your hand before you open it - if it is hot, find another way out
- if your clothes catch on fire, STOP where you are, DROP to the ground, and ROLL over and over to smother the flames
- call 1-1-1 from a safe location
- if you are trapped in a burning building, stay near a window and close to the floor
- if possible, signal for help.