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Fire calls go sky-high as Guy Fawkes approaches

Fire calls go sky-high as Guy Fawkes approaches


November 1, 2005

Less than a week after fireworks went on sale, firefighters have seen a six-fold increase in vegetation fires and a two-fold increase in minor call-outs.

From Thursday morning, when fireworks legally went on sale, to Monday night (October 31) there were 34 fires nationwide where reckless use of fireworks has been identified as the cause.

However, that figure captures only the fires where firefighters have recorded the cause, meaning other fireworks-related calls may not yet be recognised as such.

The number of call-outs for fires in vegetation went from an average of less than ten per day for the first four weeks of October to more than 35 on October 27 (when fireworks sales started) and nearly 60 on Saturday night, October 29.

Minor call-outs increased from an average of about 40 per day until October 26, to 75 on October 27 and over 100 on October 29.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Baxter says the surge in callouts demonstrates the frustration firefighters endure in the lead-up to Guy Fawkes night each year.

“This certainly reinforces the public perception that it is a few idiots who ruin it for everyone each year by reckless use of fireworks.

“You can see from the surge in calls from the night the fireworks went on sale that some people can’t wait to let loose with these things.”

The increase in call-outs so soon after fireworks went on sale makes a mockery of a prominent broadcaster, columnist and local body politician’s comments last week that firefighters were “too lazy to get out there and fight the occasional fire that might come from Guy Fawkes night”.

Mr Baxter says firefighters, both paid and volunteer, are committed to reducing the harm caused by fires in New Zealand. It is their job, and they do it willingly.

“Firefighters are not killjoys, but we see the results of fatal fires each year and are determined to reduce these, in number and consequence.

”The quantities of fireworks imported each year continues to increase, as does the number of fireworks-related fires, which have tripled in the past four years.

“No-one in their right mind would support an increase in fires, with all the damage and heartbreak they can cause.

“For this reason, and not because of political correctness, we are calling for public debate on the future of fireworks sales.

“To start off the debate, the Fire Service commissioned an independent marketing and social research company to survey 1000 people aged 15 and over on their attitude to fireworks.

“The survey, conducted in June, found 54 percent of New Zealanders thought no-one should be able to buy fireworks over the counter.

“The Fire Service continues to support public fireworks displays, both on Guy Fawkes Day and at other times of celebration. We do not want to destroy what can be a fantastic spectacle.”

Where fires from confirmed reckless use of fireworks have been so far:
North Shore (8); Manukau (6); Auckland (3); Hamilton (3); Taranaki, Wellington, Lower Hutt, Nelson, Southland (2 each); Rotorua, Taupo, Wanganui, Kapiti (1 each).


ENDS

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