The usual November downpours will create an abundance of growth (called fine fuels) such as long grass and new foliage which are easily combustible as they dry out over the summer months. When we enter a prohibited fire period, which I’m sure we will come late January/February/March, this fuel loading will be at its optimum for burning hence I request that any smoke seen around the village and surrounding areas are reported via the 111 emergency system as soon as possible. Any delays in attending vegetation fires can be catastrophic given the volatility of these fine fuels.
Please also remember that we are now in a restricted fire season which means no open flame fires of any sort are allowed (rubbish fires, barbeques, braziers, etc.) without a fire permit. If you obtain a permit for a fire, please adhere to all conditions specified in the permit.
With the arrival of warm summer nights, there is an increased likelihood that fires on the foreshore of the lake may occur. Often people may not be aware of the current fire restrictions. However, we are aiming to use part of our Wednesday night training over summer to visit campsites and raise awareness.
We have had a fairly busy year this year and are currently sitting on 41 call-outs, several of which have been structure fires with fortunately no fatalities as most buildings had smoke detectors installed. This provides a timely reminder to ensure your smoke detectors are in good working order and to get your chimneys swept after winter.
As you may or may not be aware, the speed limit has been lowered from 100km to 50km starting at the DOC reserve at the Blue Lake to just inside Okareka Loop Road. Given the number of people using the Blue Lake frontage, it is not surprising that this has been implemented.
We had a hugely successful inaugural Guy Fawkes celebration at Boyes Beach on 5 November. It was a bit disappointing to observe a local resident with obvious intentions of stealing some of our firewood collected for the bonfire. It’s a pity we didn’t catch him red-handed as a guy for the bonfire would have come in useful! Given the inclement weather on the night, it was fantastic to see so many locals turn up and support the Fire Force with this event. A big thank you to Dennis Falconer who donated the fireworks and set-up the display which was nothing short of spectacular! Thanks also to Mike and Sandra Goodwin for donating their time to ensure the lake closure was adhered to.
Two weeks later, we were also fortunate to have the talents of Zane, Degge and Imogen available to put on a show of acrobatics and juggling at the fire station for the community. For those who don’t know, Zane and Degge were semi-finalists in the New Zealand’s Got Talent show. Together with Imogen they tour around the country during their holiday breaks from university and put on shows at schools. (Thanks to Chester Boyes for providing photos of the talent show and Guy Fawkes evenings.)
Early December a group of Lake Okareka firefighters will be putting on their own show by attempting the Goat run from the Whakapapa to Turoa ski fields. We have also got six members entered into the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in May 2015 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. Fundraising for this event is now underway to assist with the research, education and support services that Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand carry out. Donations can be made for the Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force team online at the following website: http://firefightersclimb.org.nz/.
Finally, with the summer holidays not too far away, please take care on the roads if you are travelling, and have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.
For anyone wanting to contact the Fire Force, please phone me on 362 8874 or go to our website: www.okarekaruralfire.com.
Chief Fire Officer