Rural Fire

Waikato District Council current status: Open Fire Season.

An Open Fire Season means fires may be lit in the open air with no requirement for a permit. When a fire is lit, it must be done in a safe and considerate manner that does not cause a nuisance to your neighbours.

If you have any questions please ring Waikato District Council Rural Fire on 0800 492 452.

Fire seasons

There are three fire seasons, the selection and dates of the fire seasons vary depending on the conditions and are the responsibility of the Principal Rural Fire Officer.

  • Open fire season - fires may be lit in the open air with no requirement for a permit. When a fire is lit, it must be done in a safe and considerate manner that does not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. The permitted activity rules can also be found in the Air Quality chapter of the Air Land and Water Plan.
  • Restricted fire season - during the restricted fire season, a fire permit is required to light any fire in the open air. Permits for urban areas are not able to be issued during a restricted fire season.
  • Prohibited fire season - a prohibited fire season can be imposed at any time throughout the year by the Principal Rural Fire Officer during periods of extreme fire danger, and no fire of any description may be lit in the open air. The only exception is if it is authorised by the Principal or Deputy Rural Fire Officer.

Responsibilities when lighting a fire

If you light a fire you are responsible and held accountable for the costs if it escapes your control and causes damage.

Escaped fires can cost those responsible for lighting them from $1,000 to $250,000 in firefighting costs. Under the Forest & Rural Fires Act 1977, costs will be recovered from the person responsible for lighting a fire.

It is your responsibility to ensure the fire is not left unsupervised while burning and is completely extinguished before leaving the burn site.

For all campfires, cooking fires, braziers, rubbish fires, controlled burn-offs, and prescribed burns, a minimum of three metres clearance must be made surrounding the fire.

Special attention is required for areas where peat soils exist as these fires can spread undetected and can be extremely difficult to control. The open season is the best time to carry out safe burns reducing the need for fires during summer.

If you're in a Department of Conservation reserve, or within 1 km of one, you may require a permit from DOC. Their conditions may vary to ours so check their website for more information.

Keep you and your family safe

If you are going to light a fire follow these tips to keep yourself and your family safe.

Keeping Safe

  • Wear long sleeved natural fibre clothing, such as cotton or wool. Synthetic materials can melt and can cause severe injuries.
  • Wear laced up leather boots and head protection.
  • Plan how you are going to light the fire. Ensure the weather conditions, fire breaks and method for lighting the fire are right for the conditions.
  • Always have a planned safe escape route away from the fire.
  • Have adequate resources to control the fire if things don't go to plan.
  • Be flexible, change your plans to suit the weather.

Know your responsibility

  • It is the responsibility of the person lighting the fire to ensure there are sufficient resources on site to mange the fire and that the fire is contained at all times.
  • A fire should not be lit unless public liability and fire suppression insurance is taken out.
  • Liability for damage or fire suppression costs caused by any fire is the responsibility of the person lighting the fire.

Plan ahead

  • Think about the time of year you want to burn. During March-April and September-October strong equinoctial winds make burning potentially dangerous. Fire bans can be put in place during summer.
  • Give your vegetation plenty of time to dry out. The majority of sap is water. Stacking your vegetation and leaving for up to six months will allow it to dry out and give you a much better burn.
  • If possible cut and stack your vegetation in the spring and burn in the autumn. This gives the vegetation plenty of time to dry, producing a good clean burn and reduces the likely hood of fire escaping as we enter the wetter time of year.

Waikato District Council fire control service

Waikato District Council provides a fire control service outside the urban fire districts so a quick response can be made to rural fires. A District Fire Plan has been prepared which outlines responsibilities, resources and procedures used to meet these objectives.

This is achieved through co-operation with the New Zealand Fire Service and the use of Council and contractor resources.

If you have any question relating to fire, please contact us on 0800 492 452.

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