Helicopters battle scrubland blaze after police pursuit ends

By Kristin Edge

Three helicopters battled a scrub fire on Karikari Peninsula.
Three helicopters battled a scrub fire on Karikari Peninsula.

Three helicopters were dousing a scrub fire on Karikari Peninsula yesterday, with another helicopter expected on the scene as officials hoped the fire would be overcome before darkness.

The fire started after a short police pursuit ended in Matai Bay about 5.30pm yesterday.

Officers at the scene were quick to realise the fire was spreading through the scrub and called for helicopters to be dispatched.

Volunteer firefighters from three stations and a local rural firefighting group were also called on and gathered at the nearby Department of Conservation campground before the helicopters were deployed.

The fire started burning towards some small buildings in the area.

A fire communications spokesman said about 7.30pm the fire was covering an area of 3ha and was being fanned by a wind about 5km/h.

A police dog and handler were called in to track the fugitives after the vehicle being followed by police was found abandoned.

In the same area in November 2011, Kerikeri pilot John "Prickles" de Ridder, 69, and Department of Conservation ranger William Macrae, 54, of Awanui were on a fire reconnaissance flight when their helicopter crashed into the sea off the Karikari Peninsula.

While flying over the major fire, they were tasked with finding five people trapped between the advancing flames and the sea.

- Northern Advocate

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