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In an effort to make access to water to fight fires in rural areas easier, the Waitaki Volunteer Rural Fire Force is calling on the public to help it create a database of available water sources in rural areas.

Concerns about access to water in the rural settlement of Tokarahi were raised after the January 29 fire at a Tokarahi-Tapui Rd homestead.

Crews from Duntroon, Weston, Oamaru, Kurow and the Waitaki Volunteer Rural Fire Force attended the fire and there were unconfirmed reports a nearby fire hydrant, that could have been used to fill a water tanker to help douse the fire, had been disconnected.

Waitaki Rural Fire Force Deputy Controller Matt Henderson said the database they hoped to create would give fire brigades in the Waitaki district more options for finding water in emergency situations, rather than relying on local knowledge of firefighters.

Access to water in rural areas had always been a problem and fire brigades often relied on the use of local farmers’ water systems, ponds and tanks. Knowing where water sources were ahead of time would allow brigades to operate more efficiently.

It was important to have community buy-in when creating a database of this kind, Mr Henderson said.

“At the end of the day, it’s the community that we are helping so it’s the simple saying – you help us and we can help you more,” he said.

Mr Henderson said he had also scheduled a meeting with North Otago Irrigation’s operations manager to discuss the possibility of installing additional access points for rural fire to use in the event of fire.

The Waitaki Volunteer Rural Fire Force would be posting updates on its Facebook page to encourage community engagement, Mr Henderson said.

“We will also have a spot at the [North Otago] A&P show, so we will be happy to give advice to anyone that pops in,” he said.

Mr Henderson also highlighted the importance of rural property owners maintaining a defensible space around their homes and 4m by 4m clearance for driveways.

If you have available water sources at your property that could be added to the emergency database, contact the Waitaki Volunteer Rural Fire Force at waitakivrfu@xtra.co.nz.

Water sources must be “reasonably easy” to access with fire trucks.

Examples of water sources: water tanks, irrigation hydrants, ponds, swimming pools.

Details needed: closest address (rapid number), a drawing of location in relation to house or buildings, or a photo with GPS location.