Outdoor fires are still being lit in the local area despite a total ban and warnings of the damage they could cause.
Otago, Fire and Emergency New Zealand has currently prohibited all outdoor fires in Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes District, but evidence has been uncovered that the ban is being ignored in some locations.
Local Stephanie Combe says she was out walking on Monday (January 8) and discovered the remains of two fires in the same day.
“We stopped for morning tea at Meadow Hut. I saw someone had had a recent fire and it was still quite warm. I was quite concerned about it, so I went in and got a pan and poured water on it.
“We have to be very careful this time of year. It’s pretty irresponsible,” she said.
Stephanie reported what she had seen to the hut’s owners, Snow Farm NZ, and worker Sam Lee immediately set out to investigate.
“I went up there, dug a hole and buried everything deep in the ground. You can’t take that one percent chance if I hadn’t gone.
“There should be no outdoor fires regardless of where you are and how well prepared you make it. It’s really simple, you don’t light fires at the moment,” he says.
Later that day, Stephanie found the remains of a second fire at Kirtle Burn Hut and reported it to DOC when she got back into mobile phone coverage. Although both fires were out when she found them, she said she was concerned that people seemed unaware of the ban.
“It’s about raising awareness. Light no fires when there’s a complete fire ban. The main thing is people talk about it and spread the word.”
Principal rural fire officer Graeme Still confirmed anyone disobeying the ban could face prosecution.
More information on fire zones, rules and bans is available at www.otagoruralfire.org.nz
Image: Fire at Meadow Hut (8 Jan 2018). Photo: Stephanie Combe