Don't 'get loose' with fireworks - Fire and Emergency New Zealand

The AM Show 04/11/2019

With dry conditions in many parts of the country, Fire and Emergency are urging those letting off fireworks to take extra care.

Todd O'Donoghue, spokesperson for Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ), says since fireworks went on sale just days ago there have already been around 40 callouts for emergency services.

While that is slightly down on last year, O'Donoghue says it is still "40 calls too many".

"Those that are responsible and follow the rules and all the safety instructions generally have a good time," he says. "However, for a lot of people complacency kicks in and people get a bit loose with how they use fireworks."

It is those people who are causing lots of injuries and a number of fires.

Figures show that fireworks-related injuries have cost ACC nearly $1.7 million in payouts over the last four years, and there are calls to tighten rules around buying the explosives.

A law change in 2007 reduced the sales period of fireworks to just four days prior to and including November 5. But many are calling for even more to be done, including an outright ban.

The SPCA is calling on the Government to ban the sale of fireworks to the public, saying animals all too often pay the price for humans' lack of responsibility.

Auckland Council has also pushed for banning the private use of fireworks; earlier this year it took submissions on whether they should be banned or not and 89 percent of submissions were in favour of the ban.

O'Donoghue says although FENZ is more in favour of people viewing fireworks at public displays, he believes it is important for people to debate whether fireworks should remain legal.

"We are encouraging this public conversation about if they should or shouldn't be banned."

Ultimately fire-safety is a community responsibility and we're pleased the public are talking about it.

According to ACC figures, more than 500 people are injured each year due to fireworks, with many more animals also affected.

And it's not just people at risk. O'Donoghue says all too often people fail to take their surroundings into account when letting off fireworks.

"The most common thing is people don't realise that you really need to be out in a clear open area when you let off fireworks and you need to make sure they're stable in a bucket of sand or something like that so they're not going to topple over, [and] they're going to point at the stars rather than anything else around the place that can catch fire," he says.

"They let off sparks and things that get quite hot and especially with the warm, hot dry weather we're getting at the moment, they just need to get into some dry bushes or something like that and next thing you're going to have a fire starting."

O'Donoghue suggests people having a bucket of water or hose handy at all times and to think twice before letting off fireworks in dry areas.

"if you're in doubt don't light them - it's as simple as that."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter James Fyfe