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FIRE IN FORESTS

PLANTATIONS MENACED

FIGHTING EFFICIENCY

INCESSANT VIGILANCE

With the approach of summer and tho dry weather, the fire-prevention organisation of the Stato Forest Service comos automatically into 'Operalion all over New Zealand., Already there have boen one or two relatively small outbreaks, but speed in checking the flames usually assures a minimum of damage to the plantations. Those who have never witnessod a forest fire cannot appreciate ita immensity, nor the impotence of man boside it* Once the flames secure-a firm hold, the most elaborates organisation and frequently the most strenuous efforts are needed to suppress it. The officers of tho Stato Forest Service have learned this by long and in some instances costly experience, and the system of fire-prevention and suppression that is now ready for operation has Tjoeu brought to a particularly high state of efficiency. "Every employee is a fire fighter," declared an officer of tho Department, discussing the preparations that 'have been made for the summer months in the plantations. "Our arch-enemy is fire, and the men are aware of this. When the ship is sinking it is a case of every man to the pumps. And so it is in the forestry; plantations. When a fire breaks out it must be handled quickly. Every ■ minute wasted reduces the ckances of checking the flames." ETERNAL VIGILANCE. Seeing that there are more' than 7,000,000 acres of land in New Zealand under the jurisdiction of tho State Forest Service, the greater -part of which is covered either by 'exotic or by indigenous Jtrees,' the problem of the forest fii'o is a substantial one when the Dominion experiences a dry spell. Some- of the plantations of exotics aro 40 miles across, and the total area' cov'cred is about 340,000 acres. One man usually has charge of the supervision of a plantation of this kind, and his vigilance in watching for outbreaks and his efficiency in handling them when they do occur must bo of an exceptionally high standard. Look-outs are situated at the highest point in many plantations, and men keep a^constant watch from th'ein. When a fire occurs anywhere within the area, a telephone system is 'immediately in operation, and the central ranger in charge is informed. - • ". From that one signal the-whole organisation, carefully prepared and kept at efficiency point, begins immediately to operate. If tho fire is a big one, all available hands are called up to fight the flames. If it is in an area served by a water-race, a river, or' with a lake nearby, small high-powered fire pumps, each carrying 1500 feet of hose, are hooked on' behind fast motor-trucks, and all speed is made through .the large fire-breaks cut through the plantations to '■'. the seat of tho outbreak. SEATING THE FLAMES. In districts where no water is available a multiplicity of sheds are dotted about tho. plantations, about half a mile apart, each containing shovels, slashers, knapsack pumps filled with chemicals, and other instruments specially designed to deal promptly with forest flames. Every employee on the plantations be-1 comes a patrol man in the dry,weather. Incessant watchfulness is the guiding spirit of the''forestry officers. Spares from railway'trains1, fires left by campers, cigarettes 'dropped by trampers,-a. match thrown* carelessly into dry bushes; all of these are.causes of great conflagrations which sometimes take days to extinguish. When a railway line runs through'a forestry plantation a man patrols -incessantly on horseback or on foot along the whole route immediately following the passage of every train during the dry weather. Intensive campaigns are undertaken every year'to educate the public to the necessity of looking after their own forestry plantations. ' Notices are posted overy short distance along the fences skirting public highways warning people of the graye1 risk of fire. < It is possibly on account of tho 'highly efficient state of this fire-fighting system, and the Tapidity with which it operates, that no very serious forest fires have been encountered in the past ten years. The largest area completely burnt in that time was 70 acres, which was ignited by flying material from a burning hotel during a howling gale very late one night. COSTLY FALSE ALARMS. So far this summer one or two outbreaks have been recorded. A settler's fire spread into 50 acres of small trees a week or two ago, but rapid handling had it quickly under control. The' cost of false alarms is heavy. Look-out men who see smoke in ' the vicinity of the plantation must repprt. The central ranger must then send apparatus,;with men, to ensure there is no danger. The work goes on all through the summer. Motorists on the main road who see clouds of dense white smoke rising from behind the distant hills infrequently realise that below that pall of smoke >a battalion of men may be engaged fiercely fighting-the flames with pump, slasher, and shovel in an effort to check'the spread of a forest fire, which in many cases becomes a real menace to farmers, their stock, and their homes and, families.

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FIRE IN FORESTS Evening Post, Volume CXII, Issue 129, 27 November 1931

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