‘Urban/rural interface’ is defined by Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) as the area where homes and other structures are near forest, bush, scrub, or grasslands, or in the case of many residences in the Twizel area, near wilding pines.
Pine trees, with their many fine needles, thin branches, twigs, and sticky sap are highly flammable plants. They create a natural ladder of beautifully aerated and easily ignitable ‘fuel’ which when set alight, can establish quickly into an intense and devastating fire. Due to the dense fuel loading in wilding pine infestations, fires that establish within them often exhibit extreme fire behaviour and are difficult to suppress. When they occur in the urban/rural interface they also present substantial threat to lives and property. This was demonstrated very clearly in the nearby Pukaki and Ohau Village fires of 2020.
Considering these past experiences, it is important for landowners affected by wilding pines to understand how they can be better prepared to protect themselves, their families, their neighbours, structures, and livestock before the next wildfire event. FENZ notes that landscaping choices and maintenance practices have the greatest impact on protecting your home from fire.
Some suggestions relevant to wilding pines include removing tall trees, flammable plants, and debris from within 10m of your house. Between 10m and 30m from your house FENZ also suggests pruning branches up to 2m off the ground, removing flammable plants, and thinning excess trees to establish a gap of 3-6m between crowns.
In recognition of the fire hazard caused by wilding pines in the urban/rural interface around Twizel, Mackenzie District Council is generously offering free disposal of wilding slash from residential properties in the Twizel area at the Twizel resource recovery centre this Easter weekend. This is up to a maximum of 25 tonnes, so get pruning now and be in quick to take advantage of this offer! Once 25 tonnes of wilding pine slash have been received regular greenwaste fees will apply. Loads must consist of wilding pine slash only. Mixed loads will be charged regular greenwaste fees.
So how fire safe is your property? Is your escape route clear and open? Do you have any safe zones you could shelter in if you couldn’t get out? And what about your neighbours? Community fire safety is everyone’s responsibility, so if your property is impacted by wilding pines what steps could you take to make it safer?
Posted: Thu 06 Apr 2023