25 Jan 2013

Blanket fire ban declared in Selwyn District

4:49 pm on 25 January 2013

The Selwyn District Council has upgraded its fire season status from restricted to a blanket ban for the area after four serious fires in the past two weeks.

In the latest incident, soldiers practising with grenades at the Army's rifle range at West Melton near Christchurch on a hot, dry day ignited fires that engulfed about 50 hectares of land and forced homes to be evacuated.

The Defence Force has apologised for Wednesday's fire, but upset residents want police to investigate.

The Selwyn District Council's rural fire officer says before the ban, fires were allowed but a permit from the council was needed.

Douglas Marshall said on Friday that is no longer possible and although fire isn't a threat in some parts of Selwyn, the council needs to get a strong message across.

"It's very dry out there. We need to be a bit vigilant here and we just need to look at some health and safety issues with our firefighters (and) give them a break."

Mr Marshall said the Defence Force must stop all training exercises at the rifle range while the ban is in place.