Rubbish fires out of control

By Peter de Graaf

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A helicopter equipped with a monsoon bucket attacks the fire at Mitimiti.Photo / Supplied
A helicopter equipped with a monsoon bucket attacks the fire at Mitimiti.Photo / Supplied

The Far North's rural fire boss says he's had enough of people ignoring the weather conditions when lighting fires.

Firefighters responded to a series of scrub, grass and forest fires over the weekend, most of which were caused by wind fanning rubbish fires.

The biggest was at Mitimiti, on the west coast north of the Hokianga Harbour, where flames swept through 10ha of scrub on Sunday afternoon before they could be doused by helicopters using monsoon buckets.

The fire started next to a house so it was fortunate the wind drove the fire away from the settlement, principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said.

Three helicopters fought the blaze for five hours, backed up by ground crews from Kohukohu, Ahipara and Kaitaia. Firefighters remained overnight and a Kaikohe forestry crew was dampening down hot spots yesterday. A patrol was expected to return today to guard against flare-ups.

The cause was still being investigated but it appeared the wind had caught someone burning rubbish by surprise.

"The wind is getting everybody. People need to pay attention to what the wind's doing. We're getting intolerant of people disregarding weather conditions.

"We're just over it. If people are going to do it, they can expect the bill."

Just as the Mitimiti fire was brought under control a suspicious blaze broke out in pine forest on Tokawhero Rd, at Awarua south of Kaikohe, about 7pm. Two helicopters were called out along with two Kaikohe appliances. One crew stayed on overnight with an infrared camera while another cut a fire break around the burnt area yesterday morning.

A day earlier a resident of Tirohanga Rd, near Kawakawa, lit a small pile of rubbish and sawdust. When he went into town wind spread the fire into about 900sq m of kikuyu.

It was put out by the Paihia Fire Brigade, called away from an open day at their new station, and rural firefighters from Kaikohe.

The Rural Fire Authority is vowing to take a hard line against fire starters by billing them the full firefighting costs.

One of the Kaitaia firefighters at the Mitimiti blaze said the locals were fantastic, supplying refreshments for the crews and even some of Mitimiti's famous mussels to take home.

- Northern Advocate

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