Wildfires can risk lives, destroy property and devastate natural areas. Wildfires cost millions of dollars and take hundreds of hours to fight.
Summer is an ideal time for tramping, camping or simply enjoying New Zealand's beautiful wild places. But the hot temperatures and dry climate also create a high risk for wildfires.
What to do if you see a wildfire
- Ring 111 immediately if you start or see a wildfire. Don't assume someone else has already done this. Wildfires spread very fast, sometimes up to more than 14 km per hour - this is faster than most people can run.
- If you're in the bush or on a track, leave the area by the quickest route. If you're not sure about the quickest route and if it's safe to do so, go back the way you came.
- Ideally, head into the wind.
- If you're in a campground, go to the signposted Safe Zone.
How to prevent wildfires
The warm dry weather means great holidays, but more risk of fire. Check the conditions and whether you’re allowed to light an outdoors fire every time. This includes campfires, rubbish fires and cooking fires.
In some areas there may be total fire bans in place. That means all outdoor fires are banned. Remember to stay safe and if you see a fire call 111 immediately.
Go to Check it's alright to apply for a permit, get a fire season status and find out more.
If you're camping
- Whether you're camping in a forest, park or reserve, on DOC lands or rural lands, it's important you reduce the risk of fire.
- Make sure you’ve checked the conditions and have a permit if needed.
- Check with the land manager or property owner whether there are any rules around using campfires, gas cookers or cooking areas. More about gas cookers.
- Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher handy.
- Never leave a campfire unattended. When leaving your fire, take the time to properly extinguish your campfire.
- Use plenty of water to extinguish all the embers of your campfire. Keep a shovel handy to stir the contents of the fire pit until it’s cold to the touch.
- If your camp is not near a water source, use dirt to extinguish the embers and mix until cool. It’s not enough to just bury your fire, as the embers might continue to smoulder.
Effects of a wildfire
Everyone in a wildfire loses. The person found responsible will lose money directly. Everyone else loses money because of the cost to DOC (through taxes) and to councils (through rates). Other services you need get put aside to fight the fire. Public conservation land and the plants and animals that live on it are destroyed.
Wildfires have killed whole populations of animals and plants people have spent years trying to protect.
Kiwi, kukupa, fern birds and hundreds of skinks and geckos have died horribly trying to escape the smoke and flames. Often they’re burnt alive.
Rata, pohutukawa, orchids, flaxes and kauri are among the plants burned to the ground. It takes generations for some to grow to full size, but only minutes to kill them.
Consequences of starting a wildfire
Whether you meant to start it, or it "got away from you", there are consequences. If you’re found responsible for starting a wildfire, especially if you try to hide the fact or pretend you’re not responsible - you pay for it. It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Rural fire organisations have information about how wildfires start and the people who light them. It’s against the law to start a wildfire - every one of them is investigated.
Wildfires have consequences factsheet: