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Defying Canterbury fire ban 'arrogant'

Published: 6:46AM Friday January 18, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Inconsiderate Cantabrians are still lighting fires, despite fire bans, only a week after a devastating blaze razed two homes.

Authorities have slammed the "arrogant attitude" that led to Selwyn and North Canterbury fire crews putting out four intentionally lit fires on rural properties since Tuesday, one close to last week's Prebbleton wildfire.

All were in fire-ban zones and one had been left unattended.

The region is still fire prone and Selwyn residents with pools are being urged to keep them full in case helicopters with monsoon buckets are needed to fight blazes.

The Fire Service is sending two or three engines on callouts instead of one and warning the fire risk in the tinder-dry region was only temporarily reduced by recent wet weather.

"It's a minimum amount of rain," Selwyn principal rural fire officer Wilson Brown said.

"It's given an illusion of recovery. Next week it will pop up again," he said.

Fire communications shift manager Lyn Crosson said lighting fires at this time of year was irresponsible.

"It is an arrogant attitude.

"It does stun me when we've had conditions like we've had and with what happened."

The public had been more vigilant in reporting fires since last week's wildfire, she said.

Brown said those responsible for the fires in his area had been "severely chastised" and would be billed the turnout cost.

"People are just not using their common sense. Fire restrictions are there for a purpose," he said.

"If it gets away on them and they are found to be negligent, there are ramifications. They will be held liable."

Emotions in the district were "raw", he said, and it was "inconsiderate" to those affected by the wildfire.

The blaze, which started on private land behind a quarry, affected about 30 properties, including 20 households, over 150 hectares near Selwyn, Shands and Robinsons roads.

Selwyn fire crews have since responded to a rubbish fire in Trents Rd, Templeton, about 5.30pm on Wednesday - about 4 kilometres from last week's blaze.

That followed a rubbish fire doused in Woodend about 2pm on the same day.

On Tuesday, firefighters were called to Leeston shortly after noon when someone had burnt grass and hedge clippings and left the fire unattended.

They also put out a rubbish fire in a paddock in Birch Hill Rd, Waikuku, about 6.45am.

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the warm temperatures with nor'west winds would briefly return to Canterbury tomorrow, but nothing like the conditions at the time of last week's fires.

"The problem last time was the relentless days and days of it."

Consistently fine and sunny weather would not resume until Monday or Tuesday, he said.

About 150 people attended a council-organised community meeting at the Lincoln Event Centre on Wednesday night to provide feedback on the response and get advice on where to go for help and replanting.

A relief fund set up by the Selwyn council for those worst affected has received more than $9600 in donations.

The council said the money would not be distributed for several weeks.

Brown expected an interim report from investigators on the Selwyn Rd fire by the end of the month, and a final report by the middle of February.

The cause of the West Melton fire, off Thompsons Rd, could be known by the end of next week.

A Chorus spokeswoman said telecommunications were now fully restored in the fire-affected region.