Bay on fire

By Kaysha Brownlie, Victoria White

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Investigations began yesterday into the cause of two Napier fires, which streched fire services and caused traffic chaos in and around the city on Friday.

Curious onlookers flocked to Park Island to view the action where three helicopters took turns delivering monsoon buckets full of water to douse the flames of a Poraiti scrub fire.

At about 3.45pm emergency services were diverted to the second blaze involving a carport and a white jeep at Lanark Cr in Tamatea.

Fire Services brought the Poraiti scrub blaze under control at about 5pm Friday but a fire crew stayed on site "for a good part of the night".

Regional fire commander Chris Nicholl said Fire Safety was expected to be at the scene this morning securing the area where the fire began. He said it was too early to tell what had caused the fire but it was believed it began at road level on Prebensen drive where there were a "whole lot of seats of fire".

A field at Park Island was transformed into a water station where a fire hydrant was used to fill the buckets.

Four homes were evacuated as a precautionary measure with residents allowed back into their homes by about 5pm.

Detective Sergeant Darren Pritchard said there had been a level of frustration for emergency services at the number of people who watched the fires.

"We have emergency services wanting to limit the amount of damage and keep people safe ... people are often putting themselves in danger."

He said those at the fire on Linark Cr were putting themselves in danger. Hawke's Bay Today received reports of at least one accident and several near-misses as drivers took their eyes off the road to watch the fires.

The temperature in Hastings on Friday was the hottest in the country, reaching a high of 34C, with Napier not far behind at 33C. Metservice meteorologist Mariken Van Laanen said the heat would continue this weekend with Hastings reaching a high of 30 Ctoday and 27C tomorrow, while Napier's high yesterday and today would be 29C and 26C respectively.

Mr Nicholl said the fire was a fairly good indication that although there were parts of Hawke's Bay that looked green, it was still a volatile environment.

He said the "unhelpful breeze" had sped up the fire.

Nearby resident Nola Stephenson, said she was on her way home from town when she saw the smoke and investigated further because she was worried for her sister, who lived in a nearby resthome.

"Then I thought it was just a grass fire but when I got there it was "well ablaze - I've lived here for 20 years, I've never seen anything like it."

The crowd thinned as people's attention turned to thick black smoke billowing into the sky that could be seen from Park Island.

Nikki Story, who lives across the road from the damaged property, said she called the Fire Service when she saw flames engulfing the roof.

"It just went up in flames, really quickly.

"We were worried about the other fire at first," Ms Story said, "but my daughter said she could hear fireworks".

She believed the fire may have started from fireworks due to the noise and because "the smell was really different from the other fire - it smelled like fireworks".

Police and fire services confirmed there were fireworks in the car which had begun going off in the blaze but the cause was yet to be determined.

Napier Fire Service senior station officer Mark McGill said he had done a preliminary investigation but services had cleared the scene to return to the scrub fire.

A neighbour with ties to the family who lived at the house said the fire was "devastating".

"So many things have been lost ... their grandparents' things, special stuff."

Mr McGill said the work of the men who attended saved the interior of the Larnark Cr home.

"It had gotten to the roof of the house but it's amazing how little damage was done.

"The carport's in a bad state but the inside of the house is in good order."

Mr Pritchard said when he arrived on the scene "the vehicle and the house were well alight".

There had been substantial damage to the rear of the property.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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