A deliberately lit fire in a pine forest could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put out if an alert forest manager hadn't raised the alarm straight away.
The fire started near Te Pua Rd in rural Kaikohe about 1.45pm on Thursday, engulfing half a hectare of mature pine trees. The Kaikohe Fire Brigade and a Far North District Council rural fire crew spent two hours thoroughly extinguishing the blaze.
Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said police had been notified and were investigating. It appeared to have been lit by children, because the creek bank where it started showed the signs of small fires which had been lit earlier but failed to take.
A quick-thinking Ngati Hine forest manager, who happened to be driving past, raised the alarm.
When firefighters arrived the blaze was just building up; any later and it would have taken hold of the forest and could have cost hundreds of thousands to put out.
Mr Taylor said fire authorities and police were actively pursuing every deliberately lit fire and prosecuting every culprit they could catch.
The Rural Fire Authority would have to step up its education efforts because it seemed messages about the danger of lighting fires in summer were not getting through to kids in particular.
A fire ban has been in force across the Far North since December 10.