Stupidity alarms fire officials

By Kristin Edge

Northland fire officials are becoming increasingly alarmed at the blatant stupidity of people deliberately setting fires in gorse and scrub.

Officials are also keeping a close eye on weather conditions as the summer heat and wind continues to dry out vegetation.

Specialist fire scene investigator Craig Bain said Hikurangi volunteer firefighters were called to a fire in gorse on Whananaki North Rd about 11am yesterday.

Much of the fire had extinguished itself, but in the dry conditions there was potential for a more serious fire. Mr Bain said a passing police officer saw the fire and contacted the Fire Service.

Investigation revealed the remains of McDonald's takeaway wrappers in the burnt out area.

"It appears someone had deliberately gone off the road, and climbed a fence into the gorse and deliberately set fire to the wrappings," Mr Bain said.

It was fortunate the fire only burnt the ground layer of grass and leaves and did not penetrate far into the 2-metre-high gorse patch.

Firefighters with the Whangarei Heads brigade had an early start to the day after a Reotahi resident decided to burn some scrub.

Heads chief fire officer Murray Jagger said it was the third scrub fire in two days that the brigade had helped extinguish.

"With the air temperature rising and embers travelling on the wind, they can easily ignite elsewhere," Mr Jagger said.

He urged people to delay lighting fires to burn waste until later in the year when temperatures had cooled down.

He said yesterday's fire was more smoke than anything else, however, there was concern about power lines nearby. The area around the power poles was hosed with water.

Whangarei and Kaipara principal rural fire officer Kevin Ihaka said the main concern was the wind.

"If the wind increases by 10km/h it will double the speed and intensity of a fire," Mr Ihaka said.

While there were no fire restrictions in place at the moment he was keeping a close eye on conditions.

- Northern Advocate

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