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Published: 2008-12-04 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is urging people to be considerate when lighting outdoor fires this summer as smoke can quickly become a major nuisance, especially when people are outdoors enjoying the good weather.

The call follows an incident at a property in Tamahere near Hamilton on Sunday afternoon. A 10 metre by four metre garden rubbish fire was lit producing large amounts of smoke which affected nearby residents.

At least four neighbours, including one group hosting a birthday party, found the smoke from the fire offensive, said council resource officer Jonathan Caldwell.

"Several had to close up doors and windows, and turn up the air conditioning, given the amount of smoke and the high temperatures that prevailed on Sunday," said Mr Caldwell.

A resident at the property where the fire was lit declined to do anything and went out after being approached about the issue.

An EW ready response officer, subsequently called in to assess the situation, decided after speaking with neighbours to ask the fire service to put out the blaze due to the nuisance it was causing. The property owners are expected to be sent the bill for the fire engine callout, said Mr Caldwell.

He said people needed to be considerate with open air fires and ensure they followed the rules relating to them. "Being in a rural area does not give anyone the right to smoke out their neighbours. This was a particularly bad case where a number of neighbours were forced inside on a nice day because of the smoke."

Under EW rules fires are allowed in the open but they must not create a nuisance or contravene any bans introduced on fires. Also, materials such as tyres, treated timber, PVC or plastic wire coating cannot be burned in the open.

"Complaints about tyre burning can be quite common in the Waikato as people can use them as an accelerant. But burning them is strictly banned," said Mr Caldwell.

It is sensible not to make fires too large – smaller fires tended to be more clean burning. Once the fire is burning well more material can be added to it. Wood waste and vegetation should be properly dried before burning.

People also needed to bear in mind the wind direction and the closeness of their neighbours when assessing whether a fire might cause a nuisance.

The potential for fires to spread if they got out of control, and having a way to extinguish fires quickly, were other factors to consider, Mr Caldwell said. It is also important to check with the local district council or the Department of Conservation regarding whether or not a fire permit is required.

"We ask people to show common sense and courtesy, and to follow the rules, when lighting fires in the open this summer."

"Doing things the right way helps avoid your fire being a nuisance by spoiling someone else’s day. It can also avoid aggravating the health of those with respiratory problems."