Weekend fire worry

Backyard pyros celebrating Guy Fawkes Day today are being asked to make good choices this weekend, with forecast winds creating a potential problem for the Whakatipu.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand risk reduction adviser Mark Mawhinney thinks he’s asking too much to ask people not to let off fireworks this weekend, but instead hopes, ‘‘through the alcohol haze’’, they’ll make smart decisions.

Mawhinney says while there has been a bit of rain lately, conditions are dry — last month’s Mount Creighton fire, which destroyed about 230 hectares, started after a snowfall — and, when combined with wind, it could be a recipe for disaster.

He’s particularly concerned about fireworks in the ‘red zone’, which extends from Rat Point, near Glenorchy, all the way to Arthurs Point.

‘‘It’s all that area behind the built-up communities of Queenstown — steep faces, lots of vegetation, which we call fuel.

‘‘If we get a fire in that landscape, especially with wind, it’ll really [go].’’

While there is a total fire ban in that area, including fireworks, Mawhinney says that doesn’t include urban subdivisions like Fernhill.

‘‘There is a risk if someone does something silly you could end up with something getting into the edge of that red zone and starting a fire — never say never.’’

He’s encouraging people to do a bit of planning before they let off fireworks, including dampening down any fuel around them, having a bucket of water and a hose ready to go, if required, and keep an eye on the weather.

‘‘If it’s windy, just don’t do it,’’ he says.

‘‘Put it off to another time.’’

Mawhinney also wants people to consider how they’d feel if they ended up responsible for a large-scale vegetation fire, or if they destroyed someone’s home, or hurt someone.

‘‘We turn up to fires and these people are just a mess … they’re so distraught.

‘‘It’s putting our volunteers at risk as well.

‘‘With a little bit of pre-planning, it’s all avoidable.’’

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