Young fire-starters a huge threat

By Peter de Graaf

An 11-year-old boy has owned up to starting a scrub fire at Ahipara which put his life at risk and stopped firefighters getting to a house fire in Kaitaia, prompting a plea for parents to warn their kids about the dangers of fire.

The fire, near Ahipara's Korora St park about 2pm on January 16, ripped through roughly 100sq m of scrub, a strong wind driving the flames toward nearby houses.

The boy has been referred to the police Youth Aid section. Police are still looking for a second boy in relation to the arson.

Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor urged parents to warn their children of the dangers of fire.

"We've got kids lighting fires in scrub, in amongst a lot of volatile fuel. The risk to them is very high and they don't know what's downwind of the fire," he said.

"Parents have to sit down with their kids to explain the risks and tell them that lighting fires is not an option - and if they do, they can expect a knock on the door."

Without a four-wheel-drive fire truck available to tackle the Ahipara fire, an urban appliance from Kaitaia was sent out and got stuck in the sand. As a result it was unable to respond to a stove fire in Kaitaia's Clough Rd about 3pm.

The consequences could have been disastrous, Mr Taylor said.

Once young fire-starters were identified the Fire Service would, if the families agreed, put them through a Fire Awareness Intervention Programme. Similar programmes would also be run at their schools.

Children playing with matches were also thought to have started a fire in pine forest at Kaikohe's Te Pua Rd last week.

Mr Taylor said police and fire authorities were working together closely this summer. Firefighters were notifying police immediately if a blaze appeared suspicious and police were responding quickly, lifting their chances of catching the offenders.

"If you light a fire in Northland, look over your shoulder because we'll be on to you fast," he said.

- Northland Age

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