A plume of black smoke rises from a fire at Three Brothers Corner near Richmond on Monday. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

Fire-starter urges others to learn from his mistakes

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The man whose fire sent black smoke over parts of Richmond last year says he’s embarrassed and remorseful.

Brett Mytton has owned land near Three Brothers Corner for more than 30 years and had numerous controlled fires over that time.

But a fire to burn an old fibreglass boat last May ended with him facing a maximum sentence of a $300,000 fine or two years in jail.

He says the boat was salvaged by a friend after it was wrecked on the Boulder Bank. After salvaging some parts from it, they’d decided that burning it would be a good way to dispose of it.

Brett says that decision was “an error of judgement”.

He is now undertaking a restorative justice process, which includes donations to the Richmond Library and the Richmond Fire Brigade, as well as an article in the Weekly to educate the community about open air fires.

Brett Mytton.
Brett Mytton.

“I did a pretty silly thing and I’m facing the consequences of it. I’m still to face a judge and see what they say. But I’ve put my hand up and pledged guilty, and I feel a lot of remorse and embarrassment about my actions.”

He says he did get a permit for the fire, but didn’t tell the Waimea Rural Fire Force what he would be burning.

Waimea Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Ian Reade says Brett’s case highlights the need for people to be honest and know the rules before they light fires.

“Every fire in the open air in the Nelson and Tasman areas needs a permit, all year round. When you apply for that permit you’re asked what kind of materials you’re burning, so you need to detail what you’re putting in the heap.”

Brett admits he was in the wrong. “I got a permit, but it never came up about what I was wanting to burn. I put my hand up, I was neglectful.”

He says when he first lit the fire there was a lot of smoke, but it didn’t smell. “But it didn’t take long before I realised that I’d made a mistake.”

At the time, Waimea Weekly reported that a passer-by described it as the “fire from hell”, and that smelly, jet-black smoke went in to the air over Richmond.

Tasman District Council scientist Anna McKenzie says there is a list of items that are not allowed to be burned including plastic, treated timber and tyres.

She says smoke from the fire was picked up at the Richmond monitoring site, on Oxford St.
“It’s not good to have those chemicals released in the air, which can then affect the land as well.”

Brett is due to face a judge in the Nelson District Court within the next few months.