Hira Volunteer Rural Firefighters John Olsen, Rosemary Hassan, Gordon Cowie, Kathy Carr, Sean Moynihan, Steve Campion, Ian Thomas and Richard Kunzli. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Hira community fight fire risks

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The Hira community is getting proactive about keeping their homes safe from future disasters in the wake of the Pigeon Valley fires.

Hira volunteer rural fire gathered the community together on Sunday to share tips on how they can make their properties safer.

Hira fire chief Gordon Cowie says the idea was to give people tools so they can make their properties safer after a lot of people began asking questions on how they could do so.

“The thing is, if you do this you might have a chance. If you do nothing, you’re running the risk of losing your house”

Principal rural fire officer Ian Reade gave a presentation of key things that residents can put in place to assist firefighters in fighting a fire.

Ian says people should begin at their house and work their way out to a 10-metre boundary to form a fire-free zone.

“Timber stacked under your house, firewood stacked against the side of your house, bark gardens, hessian door mats, these are the kind of things that are going to allow embers to get in there and set your house on fire.”

Ian says most houses that get caught in large fires burn down before the fire even gets to them.

“Take the Pigeon Valley fire, that was throwing flames and starting new fires 500 metres in front of it, just from the intensity of the heat.”

He says anywhere that leaves gather is a likely place where embers will land and start a fire.

Gordon says the Hira station is the only rural station on that side of town and Nelson North is a “scary little patch” to look after.

“There’s a lot of houses stuck in the bush. They are lovely spots to build and people don’t think about it … but we can’t get a fire truck in and out.

Gordon says huge lessons were learnt from the Pigeon Valley fires.

“A lot of people didn’t know their neighbours, a lot of people with stock kept in their own little group, whereas someone else could have actually got them out for them so they wouldn’t have had to worry.”

Fire Smart officers are available to come to people’s homes and tell them how to put some preparations in place to make their homes more fire safe, and rural officers are more than happy to come and assess properties to make sure they will have adequate access in an emergency.