People living in rural areas of Hastings are being reminded that they must remain vigilant after lighting fires to dispose of vegetation.
The local council said farmers and orchardists regularly lit fires at this time of the year to get rid of unnecessary foliage but it was important to remember the soil and surrounding vegetation remained combustible - even in the middle of winter.
Deputy principal rural fire officer Gordon Foster said fires should be attended at all times as the wind could cause hot embers to fly into nearby vegetation.
"Morning is the safest time to light outdoor fires so that they have a chance to burn out before dark. A permit is required all year round when starting a fire that will remain alight after sunset."
He said fires in rural areas should be used to burn only natural substances.
Other materials such as household rubbish, plastics and rubber must not be burnt outdoors
"Smoke and toxic fumes from that type of material can cause problems for residents of neighbouring properties."
The quality of the air is controlled by Hawke's Bay Regional Council's airshed policy and must be considered before lighting an outdoor fire, Mr Foster said.
All open fires in Airshed 1 & 2 require a resource consent between May 1 and August 31 - unless burning diseased trees or undertaking orchard/vineyard redevelopment on horticulture production land.
Mr Foster said people should not hesitate to call 111 if they are concerned about a fire left unattended or if they feel that they are in danger from a fire. A major fire in the Hastings rural area has the potential to threaten the public, damage public utilities, and disrupt power and communication services.
More information on lighting fires in the open is available at: http://www.hastingsdc.govt.nz/bylaws-part-11-fire-control-bylaw