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Clean up gardens now to cut down risks to property from fire

2 December 2004

Canterbury’s Rural Fire Coordinating Committee is calling for the region’s biggest ever garden clean up.

Before Christmas the rural fire authorities would like to see tidy front and back yards throughout Canterbury, says Tony Teeling, the committee spokesperson. Cutting the fire risk to property is a situation where individuals really can make a difference, he says.

“If everyone cut back all their long grass and removed all dead vegetation then we’d have a lot less fuel for fires this summer. We know from experience that when we have extreme fire risk it really makes a difference if houses and farm buildings have what we call defensible space – an area where there is no fuel for fires.”

Property owners should also remove any live vegetation such as gorse which is growing next to implement sheds and other farm buildings.  Tree branches that are touching buildings are also a problem because they can be a route for fire to spread onto a building.

Mr Teeling says that after last summer’s extreme fire risk rural fire authorities had refined their systems and improved cooperation between all of the agencies involved.  A major exercise involving 400 rural fire personnel was held in October which had brought a number of new people from throughout the community on board so that they could help out in the management of rural fires.

Christchurch’s principal rural fire officer, Keith Marshall, says that in the case of city residents,  Mr Teeling’s advice is particularly important for people with homes and small holdings on the city’s outskirts, but even in the suburbs and central city people should have a look around their homes to see how they could reduce the potential risk.

“It’s good advice wherever your home is,” Mr Marshall says. “Don’t leave dead or dry material against buildings and have a look at what’s around your buildings to see if it would increase the risk to your property if there was a fire in the area.”

The City Council has pamphlets with good advice about fire prevention strategies and about the kinds of plants which are less flammable. These pamphlets are available from all Council offices and service centres around the city.


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