‘Don’t be an idiot’ says the Mayor of Greymouth, as he continues to dry | RNZ News

Smoke is rising from an inland bushfire bordering the west coast, and the fire risk remains high.
Photo: Supplied / FENZ

More deliberately lit beach fires kept Greymouth firefighters busy again yesterday and last night.

With the bait dry, despite some rain today, Mayor of Greymouth, Tania Gibson, has called for the fire to be stopped.

“If they’re doing it on purpose: don’t be an idiot,” he said.

Greymouth Volunteer Fire Brigade has now dispatched 29 calls over 27 days this month, with many of the fires deliberately lit on or near the Greymouth coast.

Greymouth Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Lee Swinburn said his first call yesterday was to a false alarm at the IPL plywood factory in Gladstone at 2.30pm.

Then, at 8.30pm, they were called to a fire on Domain Terrace beach, near the Marist Rugby pitch.

That fire was “out on arrival”, but two hours later they were called back to “a large bushfire” in the same area, but further south, on the Domain Terrace extension near Allied Concrete, said Swinburn.

Two crews from Greymouth and a water tanker from Cobden battled for an hour, from 10.30pm, to bring the bushfire under control.

The fire was certainly suspicious and although Greymouth had a “short and heavy” overnight shower, much more was needed, Swinburn said.

Senior Sergeant Brent Cook of Greymouth said those responsible for the fires along the beach and the retreat on the West Coast Wilderness Trail were proving difficult to trace.

The police had stepped up patrols, but they depended on reports of fires.

It was also possible that some were “skimming” about their activities in the community.

“Our best luck is that if someone sees them doing it, it’s hard to solve,” Cook said.

“The only way we’re going to catch them is if some member of the public keeps their eyes open and gives us a tip,” he said.

Living near Greymouth fire station, Gibson said he was well aware of the demand for volunteers at the moment, with many of the fires obviously taking up everyone’s time.

However, he was aware that some fires were also lit innocently.

“Actually I had a message last night about one of them – I know it was a tourist last night who had innocently started a fire and didn’t see any information… sometimes people just don’t know” .

The mayor wants to get in touch with the authorities and the council to develop a coordinated local communication on the fire ban.

This could include giving information to hospitality and accommodation providers to inform visitors of fire risk and local water restrictions, on entry.

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