Introduction

Staff and volunteers from 3 different agencies were called in to deal with reports of a potential illegal fire in the Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve this weekend.

Staff and volunteers from 3 different agencies were called in to deal with reports of a potential illegal fire in the Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve this weekend.

The Department of Conservation received reports that campers in were about to light a campfire in Wairua Bay on the shores of Lake Tarawera. Wairua Bay is a popular area for fishing and boating although camping is strictly prohibited.

"Given there was an extreme fire risk in the outlying areas of Rotorua over the weekend, it was plausible that a campfire could have gotten out of hand especially when alcohol consumption is a factor" said DOC Ranger Paul Cashmore. "There is a lot of dry kanuka forest in the Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve which allows fire to spread rapidly out of control."

Given the extreme fire risk, DOC acted on the report immediately and was supported by Rotorua District Council and West Rotoiti volunteer Fire Crew. Staff ensured the campfire wood was removed before it was lit and the potential offenders were spoken to.

DOC administers 6 public campsites in the Rotorua District including 3 on the shores of Lake Tarawera. The use of open flames for cooking at these campsites is prohibited.

You can be held personally liable for the costs of fighting a rural fire if you are proved responsible for causing it.

"Camp managers take care of removing litter that is left behind at DOC campsites" said Mr Cashmore. "When people camp illegally at places such as Wairua Bay, glass bottles are often left behind and can pose a significant fire risk in addition to other health and safety issues'.

Camping on DOC administered land around Lake Tarawera is permitted at Hot Water Beach Campsite, Tarawera Outlet, and Humphries Bay. Bookings for Hotwater Beach camp site are essential and can be made through the Whakarewarewa Charitable Trust.

DOC is the largest rural fire authority in the country. It is responsible for preventing and controlling fire on public conservation land, all unoccupied crown land and within one kilometre of these lands.

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